The Bloco Afros are enormous drum ensembles. They play a style of music that came into prominence in the 70’s inspired by the civil rights advances and the “Black Pride” movements that had taken root in the United States in the late 60’s. In Salvador, these Bloco Afros are more than just music ensembles: they also play a cultural, educational, and political role in the communities that host them.
The drum ensemble ---which consists of hundreds of drummers --- is divided into several sections, each of which has a rhythmic part they play. At the head of the Bloco, the group’s Mestre conducts and creates a spontaneous mix by instructing each section what rhythm to play, organizing breaks, and ushering in the sections as he pleases. Accompanying the massive drum ensemble, there are sections of dancers, who together, row after row, dance choreographed passages to the music. The Bloco Afro would not be complete without it’s own trio elétrico, including a vocalist who sings/chants vocal lines over the top of the thunderous cacophony of drums. Typically, the lyrics are rooted in race, struggle, African heritage, and, of course, “love.” Also adorning the top of the trio there are always a couple of afro-ballerinas who glide, whirl, and sway to the afro-pulse in a style of dance born from Yoruban religious rituals.
Banda Didá is an all-female percussion orchestra. The band was founded by the late Neguinho de Samba, a former director of Grupo Olodum, through a substantial donation from Michael Jackson.
The newest bloco Afro on the Carnival circuits, Cortejo Afro made their Carnival debut in 1999. Born out of an established Candomblé house in Salvador, Ilê Axé Oiá, Cortejo Afro was founded by artist Alberto Pitta. Concerned about the predominance of Axe music, Cortejo Afro was formed in an attempt to reestablish the African identity of Carnival.
Filhos de Gandhy
Founded in 1949 by a group of dock workers, Filhos de Gandhy (Sons of Gandhi), was inspired by Gandhi's revolution in India. Unable to afford traditional Carnival costumes, the members of the group adapted simple white sheets and towels as their costume.
Ilê Aiyê is the Belo dos Belos (the most beautiful of the beauties) as goes the title of their most well-known song. Just about every carnival, they're winners of the Dodo e Osmar Trophy for the Best Bloco Afro. Ilê, as they're affectionately known in Salvador, was the first Bloco Afro to emerge from the Black Consciousness movement of the 1970's.
Malê de Balê
Malê de Balê has been called by the New York Times, the “largest Afro-Ballet in the World.” A Carnival spectacle to behold, Malê takes to the streets of Salvador with some 150 percussionists and 1500 dancers in tow.
Muzenza was part of the wave of bands inspired by the Black Power movement of the 70s. Founded in 1981 by former founders of Olodum, Muzenza extended the samba-reggae tradition. Muzenza has appeared on recordings by artists such as Caetano Veloso, Daniela Mercury, Margareth Menezes, and Gal Costa.
Olodum is the most well know of the Bloco Afros. They regularly represent Brazil at international events such as the World Cup. They have achieved international recognition through their recordings with Paul Simon, Michael Jackson, and Herbie Hancock among others.