Years ago, before the water receded, the residents of Massaranduba in Salvador, Bahia Brazil made their homes on stilts along the coastline wherever space was available. When the waters left, the roads came in and formed a base for urban development of brick and concrete.
Whatever materials were used to build this community; truly, at its foundations, there has always been a culture of music and sport and common purpose. On 2 previous occasions, I was invited to the neighborhood by Capoeira Mestre Valmir of the Fundacao Internacional de Capoeira Angola(FICA). Mestre Valmir introduced me to programs in the neighborhood which were quite impressive.
The first was the “Escola do Sorriso Infantil” where Mestre Valmir was conducting Capoeira classes for the neighborhood children as a way to show them clear paths around the obstacles of life around them. Samba Trovao founder and Musical Director Livaldi “Baba Jan” da Cruz grew up in Massaranduba, and trained with Mestre Valmir in GCAP and later FICA. Baba himself worked with the kids at the school before coming to the US to teach Capoeira.
The second program, a non-governmental community network- “Balcao.” Many neighborhoods in the city of Salvador operate a community seat, “Balcao.” Each having a center which offers day care, tutoring, medical services, and legal mediation\advice for residents. Each a local shelter and nurturing environment for personal growth and opportunity.
On previous visits, the work-day calm left streets empty of evidence of the vibrant soul of Massaranduba. This time, on a Sunday, the streets were alive with Soccer and music. Noted Singer and Composer Sergio Baleiro of the Bloco Afro “Os Negoes” introduced me to this other side on a walking tour to meet local musicians.
Yes the libations flowed and the streets were filled with music and dancing. So many locals were part of musical groups, each of which had similar programs for youth. No day is easy, life itself is a challenge day to day, but Sunday the young have teams that play Soccer in the street for all to enjoy and tables are filled as residents share a block party routine.
Warm were the embraces and welcoming were the smiles as this stranger was received with affection for being a friend and partner with Baba Jan whom they hold in high esteem. Like the schools of Capoeira, the “Bloco Afro” in Brazil has an “each-one-teach-one” approach to self empowerment. Each day on TV, reminders of crime and violence present clear pictures of hardships, and each day hands make instruments to entertain and to teach. Each day elders share knowledge and direction.
Axe’ is a term known to most who have attended a Samba Trovao show, but it is important to understand how that term defines inspiration. Inspiration as an unshared experience is unborn, Axe’ only exists when the inspired share such inspiration in a way in which at least two others are as well inspired. Be it the haunting call of a berimbau in which we hear the voice of ancestors, or be it in the thunder of drums from a Bloco Afro, Axe’ is born in a way which can shelter and nurture and make whole.
It has always been a dream, indeed a goal, for Samba Trovao founder Baba Jan to develop programs in the US similar to those which he grew up with in Capoeira and the Bloco Afro in Massaranduba. Each time we have a successful show, we grow closer to the fulfillment of that mission, so join us in our efforts and be a part of inspiration. Axe’