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Let's Make Some Noise

Let's Make Some Noise: Axe and the African Roots of Brazilian Popular Music

Clarence Bernard Henry
Copyright Date: 2008
Pages: 208
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  • Book Info
    Let's Make Some Noise
    Book Description:

    Clarence Bernard Henry's book is a culmination of several years of field research on sacred and secular influences of àsé, the West African Yoruba concept that spread to Brazil and throughout the African Diaspora. Àsé is imagined as power and creative energy bestowed upon human beings by ancestral spirits acting as guardians. In Brazil, the West African Yoruba concept of àsé is known as axé and has been reinvented, transmitted, and nurtured in Candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion that is practiced in Salvador, Bahia.

    The author examines how the concepts of axé and Candomblé religion have been appropriated and reinvented in Brazilian popular music and culture. Featuring interviews with practitioners and local musicians, the book explains how many Brazilian popular music styles such as samba, bossa nova, samba-reggae, ijexá, and axé have musical and stylistic elements that stem from Afro-Brazilian religion. The book also discusses how young Afro-Brazilians combine Candomblé religious music with African American music such as blues, jazz, gospel, soul, funk, and rap.

    Henry argues for the importance of axé as a unifying force tying together the secular and sacred Afro-Brazilian musical landscape.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-334-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Photographs and Music Examples
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-23)

    When I began my inquiry in 1998, I was interested in conducting multidimensional research to understand the significance of “blackness” and how people of African descent continue to reinvent and reinterpret African religious, musical, and dance traditions in the sociocultural and sociopolitical frameworks of contemporary Brazilian culture. I was fortunate to travel to parts of West Africa and African diaspora areas to experience for myself the variety of African religious and musical traditions. I wanted to explore how Brazil continues to be linked with Africa through the expressions, manifested in Afro-Brazilian culture, of Candomblé religion and musical styles such as...

  6. 1 Sacred/Secular Influences: The Reinvention of West African Àsé in Brazil
    (pp. 24-55)

    It may seem perplexing to examine the influences of a religious tradition on popular music. However, I believe that a conversation between the sacred and secular is an appropriate way to begin an exploration of what I refer to as axé and its African roots. I use the terms axé and African roots to examine aspects of Afro-Brazilian religious, cultural, and musical traditions that in many ways have influenced those of Brazilian culture and popular music. To comprehend the gamut of these influences, in this chapter I examine the ancestral origins of the religious concept of West African àsé and...

  7. 2 From the Sacred to the Secular: Popularizing Candomblé Rhythms
    (pp. 56-81)

    In Candomblé religion, music is an important vehicle by which the orixás are appeased. In special ceremonies axé is generated through a series of sacred drum rhythms, songs, and dances that are offered to the orixás. During the ceremonies practitioners revere the “sonic” as axé embodiment and deem the music as the “voices” of the orixás. When music is performed practitioners often lift their hands to orun, the world of the ancestors, bow in reverence to the sacred musical instruments, or experience spirit possession. For many practitioners music validates their religious experiences and enables them to reconnect, speak, and communicate...

  8. 3 Axé Embodiment in Brazilian Popular Music: Sacred Themes, Imagery, and Symbols
    (pp. 82-105)

    For practitioners in Candomblé religion, the power and creative energy of axé is embodied and manifested through their devotion and reverence for particular themes, imagery, and iconic symbols. This chapter examines the appropriation of sacred themes, imagery, and symbols from Candomblé religion in Brazilian popular music. In Brazilian popular music there is a sacred/secular connection in that many popular musicians have appropriated sacred themes, imagery, and iconic symbols associated with the orixás, axé, Candomblé religion, and African roots as topics of songs marketed in commercial recordings, live performances, and public celebrations. This sacred/secular connection also contributes to the uniqueness of...

  9. 4 The Sacred/Secular Popularity of Drums and Drummers
    (pp. 106-126)

    Vibrant drumming is a musical tradition that connects Afro-Brazilians with the black experiences of African and African diasporic areas. Observing dynamic drummers was an experience that enhanced this research. Similar to Candomblé, in religions such as Haitian Vodou, Cuban Santería, and Trinidadian Sàngó there is strong influence from West African drumming where a male-dominated corps of musicians summons the ancestral spirits and evokes spirit possession.¹ In many African and African diasporic religions drumming mediates the tripartite of music, dance, and spirit possession. But, drumming also mediates the sacred/secular experiences of many devoted practitioners. Without drumming, practitioners in the secular world...

  10. 5 Secular Impulses: Dancing to the Beats of Different Drummers
    (pp. 127-145)

    In Afro-Brazilian culture axé, Candomblé religion, sacred drumming, and African roots have very much influenced the creative energy of secular community-based drummers. Since the mid-1970s, these young drummers have attempted to link Afro-Brazilian identity with other African and African diasporic areas through popular music and the valorization of Candomblé religion as part of the African heritage. Many young drummers actively engage in dynamic musical performances in association with social movements—Negritude, pan-Africanism, and black pride—in a struggle for racial equality in their communities. With active participation in the social movements, these drummers also stand at a crossroads of the...

  11. 6 Say It Loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud: Popular Music and Axé Embodiment in Bahian Carnival/Ijexá
    (pp. 146-165)

    In many African and African diasporic areas, local, regional, and national identities are expressed through a sacred/secular connection of celebrations. During celebrations, people of different sociocultural and sociopolitical backgrounds come together. Unified by the excitement of spectacular pageantry, creative play, and costuming and masking, in many celebrations the sacred/secular is connected. Local, regional, and national identities may center on celebrating ancestral spirits, patron saints, local customs, folklore, or traditions belonging to a particular city, state, region, or ethnic group. Popular music is often a major expressive vehicle for individuals and groups that participate in these types of celebrations. Many aspects...

  12. 7 Stylizing Axé as Brazilian Popular Music
    (pp. 166-188)

    Axé music reflects musical diversity. The ingredients of axé music are mixed and range from samba to ijexá, frevo, carimbó, reggae, funk, soul, rap, merengue, and soca. In this chapter I examine axé as an innovative style of Brazilian popular music. When one examines axé music as an innovative popular style, one must acknowledge that it did not just suddenly appear on international charts, but was gradually accepted by the commercial industry, media, and consuming public as an innovative style of Afro-Brazilian popular music.

    Axé music was developed over a period of time by young Afro-Brazilians who were involved with...

  13. Epilogue
    (pp. 189-192)

    Afro-Brazilian identity is multidimensional and a product of old and new sociocultural/sociopolitical experiences. When I began my research I was interested in understanding this multidimensionality and the significance of “blackness”—how people of African descent have continued to reinvent and reinterpret African religious, music, and dance traditions in contemporary Brazilian culture. I soon realized that the black experience in Brazil was not self-contained but somehow extended to other areas. This extension of the black experience (in Brazil and other areas) was grounded in the heritage of West African àsé.

    My research took me to many areas where I experienced the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 193-206)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 207-210)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-226)
  17. Index
    (pp. 227-234)