This post is the latest in the series Kike Calvo’s visual diary as a National Geographic Expert on the Buenos Aires, Rio and Brazil´s Wild Coast National Geographic Explorer.
A perfect cacophony of drums and Afro-Brazilian percussion instruments seem to infuse every corner as we go up narrow streets to find our hotel in the pastel-hued historic district of Salvador de Bahia. Well-preserved baroque architecture dating from the 16th and 17th centuries and a palette of brightly-colored facades set the scene for a vibrant display of art, music, crafts and martial arts as the town goes about its day.
Walking around the cobblestone streets of Pelourinho, you can feel the rhythm that history has impregnated on these UNESCO World Heritage walls. If I had to choose something that triggered my senses, it would be the sounds of berimbau –a bow-like local instrument– playing capoeira music. Capoeira, a testament to Brazil’s African heritage, is a martial art originally disguised as a dance, and the closest thing I have ever seen to dancers flying while keeping up with the beat and rhythm of drums.
With a largely Afro-descendent population, African cultural roots are alive and part of daily life in Salvador. “You don’t have to be a professional to play music. Everyone plays and not just in preparation for carnival. There is music everyday. It is a community activity that brings people together,” said Jacob Edgar, musicologist and cultural expert aboard this Lindblad-National Geographic expedition. For a more stylized representation of popular traditions, we visited the Balé Folclórico da Bahia, a nationally and internationally acclaimed ballet company. The performance, a blast of energy and passion, showcased elements of Afro-Brazilian religion, history and culture.
Pelourinho’s effervescent setting gave me an idea that I felt compelled to carry out before starting our expedition aboard the National Geographic Explorer, the expedition ship that would take us down the Atlantic Coast of Brazil all the way to Buenos Aires. I decided to arrange a photo shoot with local classic ballerinas. As part of an ongoing project, I have been capturing the beauty of ballet, choosing landmarks across Latin America and history-rich places. The outcome was astonishing and I will be including it in my collection of which a photograph was recently included in the new National Geographic book entitled “Stunning Photographs”.
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