A Travellerspoint blog

Out with a bang in Salvador

Brazil's culture capital

sunny 25 °C

Bang! Boom! Bang! Boom!

I love the sound of percussion on mass. I love how the sound vibrates through your body, like a good spring clean for the soul. Lucky for me we had arrived at one of the world’s drum capitals – Salvador da Bahia on Brazil’s north coast. Drumming is legend here thanks to the city’s history as the first port of call for millions of African slaves between the 15th and 18th centuries. Fast-forward to 2013 and the streets of Salvador are no longer filled with the misery of a barbaric practice but with the uplifting sounds of percussion bands. Every night in the historic centre you can watch percussionists belting it out. There are all girl groups, all kids groups and even groups who have found international acclaim (see below).



Salvador's drummers even caught the attention of Michael Jackson! He collaborated with local group Olodum on the song 'They don't care about us' and even shot his video in the city:

....and yes we paid $5 to go up to the balcony where MJ performed...we couldn't resist the deal which included an Olodum t-shit (the same one he wore in the film clip)!!


— Salvador is the third largest city in Brazil and was the nation's first capital.


The historical centre or the ‘Pelourinho’ is incredible. There’s a festival atmosphere and the buildings are all beautifully preserved, painted various shades of happy. You just have to look at the huge houses and grand old churches to see how the slave trade must have catapulted Salvador into an incredibly rich city.




— Wish ribbons for good luck are tied to the church or worn around the wrist.

— At the Museum of the City.

— The hugely popular Olodum perform before Brazil v Japan in the Confederation Cup.


The ‘Pelo’ (as it’s called for short) is home to a number of museums chronicling the history of the slave trade and the rich African culture that still remains. At the Afro-Brasilian museum we learnt more than 4 million African slaves were brought to Brazil and that slavery was only abolished in the year 1888. Also in the Pelo is the incredible Bale Folclorico da Bahia – a one-hour show of traditional dance. The performance left me breathless… and I swear that was due to the dancers’ skills rather than the male performers’ physiques. I’m talking eight packs abs! Actually make that ten packs! I swear it’s possible! Where was I? Oh yeah, Bale Folklorico featured dances inspired by the slaves and the tribal religion Candomblé (more on that later) while the finale was the most intense, high energy display of Capoireira I have ever witnessed. This now world famous martial arts dance in fact originated in Salvador, another gift from the African slaves. If only they let me bring my camera!

During our visit we heard about the tribal religion of Candomblé and were eager to learn more. The faith was bought over by the African slaves and is now practiced by millions thanks to some clever thinking from devotees. See the slaves (who were forced into Catholicism) decided to sneak the religion under the noses of authorities by changing the names of their deities to Catholic Saints. But the similarities stop there. Candomblé features multiple gods with lavish ceremonies where participants in elaborate costumes put themselves into trances.

— Candomblé place of worship in the Pelo.

— Art work depicted the different Candomblé deities at the Afro-Brasilian museum.

We got talking to a few people to find out where we could attend a Candomblé meeting and were put in touch with a guy who new a guy who practiced. That night we dressed all in white as requested and were driven to a small a house of worship way out of town. We were feeling pretty good about ourselves, ‘what intrepid travellers we are,’ we thought as we sat in the little house gearing up for an experience that couldn’t have been gained from a guide book. Then…the tour bus arrived and out popped a dozen tourists. What? Turned out Brayden and I weren’t so privileged after all. We had no choice but to ignore the other tourists (and their non-white clothes and flash photography!) and enjoy the night. It ended up being a great experience, unlike anything I’d seen. There was chanting, beating drums, women in crazy costumes and dancing. Many of the women worked themselves up into such a state they were dripping in sweat and sent themselves to a land far far away from planet earth.




Well, I can’t believe we have come to the end of our Latin American adventure! Our experiences in South and Central America will always run through our veins. This corner of the world has transformed us into nature devotees and astounded us with some of the most vibrant culture on the planet.

Next stop, Germany!

Stay posted!

Posted by elyshahickey 06:01 Archived in Brazil Tagged history dance colonial

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WOW... Salvador da Bahia looked so colourful...loved the women's dresses... looked like there was a lot of poverty with the favelas ala Rio. Watched the Michael Jackson clip and I know how you feel about percussion. Maybe you could take up the drums when you come home. We might be able to work as a duo! Brayden,you looked like Jacko's twin on that balcony! PS please buy a new shirt!
Love Dadda xx

by robert hickey

You would have loved it Dad! Paul Simon also did some work with Olodum - you should check out the Obvious Child (my second fave song after You Can Call me Al). I remember listening to the drums at Hibiscus Ave! Bray's bought many new shirts but unfortunately remains rather attached to that yellow soccer shirt.

by elyshahickey

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