It is great to be back to our series “Exploring the rhythms of Brazil”. In this post we will learn about another rhythm that comes from the Northeastern region of Brazil: The Ijexá
The IJEXÁ rhythm (pronounced Eee-jay-shah) arose from the rituals of Candomblé. This is a religion which came from the beliefs of the Yoruban people that the Portuguese brought to Brazil from West Africa to work in the sugarcane mills and mines. This slave trade centered in the Northeastern Brazil, and happened during the colonial period, from around 1500 to 1822. The Africans used their culture and religion to resist the oppression of slavery and, in to doing, became a major part of Brazil’s music, dance, festivities, cuisine and culture.
Ijexá is an ethnic sub group of the Yoruba people. In the Candomblé religion it is a nation formed by slaves that came from the city of Ilesha, in the state of Osun, in northwestern Nigeria. The Ijexá rhythm is played in the Candomblé Rituals, although it has been adapted for the street parades.
The Ijexá is played by the Blocos de Afoxé or Afoxés, associations of people bound to a specific Terreiro de Candomblé, that parades in the streets during Carnival. As they parade down the streets, they dance and sing in the Yoruban language praising the Orisha Oxum (Deity of the lakes and waterfalls) . This is why the Afoxé group is also called Candomblé de Rua (Candomblé of the Streets). Commonly people call the Ijexá rhythm Afoxé.
The instruments used by the Afoxé groups come from those used in the Candomblé Rituals. They include the three Atabaque drums (Rum, Rumpi and Lê), the Agogô and the Shekerê or Abê. The atabaques are cone-shaped, wooden drums covered in ox skin; the lowest-pitched one is called Rum, the medium-pitched one is the Rumpi and the smallest, highest-pitched one is the Lê. They are played with thin sticks called Aquidavis.
The first Afoxé to parade in the streets of Salvador, capital of the state of Bahia was the Afoxé Embaixada da África ( Embassy of Africa) in 1885.
The biggest and most renowned Afoxé group of Brazil is called Filhos de Gandhi (Sons of Gandhi) who were founded in 1949 in the city of Salvador. It was named in tribute to the Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi. The allegories of this Afoxé group, which figure prominently in the procession, are a camel, a grey elephant, a black-and-white goat, and two pictures of Gandhi. In the parade the 3,000 members of the group dress in white clothes and turbans, to symbolize peace.
There are other Afoxé groups in Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, but the state of Bahia has the most influence because it has the largest population of African descendants.
The Ijexá rhythm was largely incorporated in Brazilian Popular Music (MPB) by a variety of artists such as: Gilberto Gil, Caetano Velloso, Djavan and many others.
I leave you guys today with a video from Clara Nunes entitled Ijexá. Here you can see images of the city of Salvador and members of Afoxé Filhos de Gandhi playing and dancing to the Ijexá rhythm.
See you next time.