We followed the Brazilian rhythms to Salvador, the capital of the one-upon-a-time african slave trade in the state of Bahia. As a result the city is an eclectic mix of African, European and Indigenous influences. The city also hosts a tiny Jewish community, seemingly centered around the Chabad house in Bara (a beachside suburb where we stayed) where we joined their Pesach seder. As we couldn’t take photos at the seder of the eclectic mix of the 50 or so Israelis, Chabadniks, locals and a few other ring-ins, you will get photos of Bara!
The Seder was run by an earnest young Brazilian Chabadnik, who had been sent by his Yeshiva in New York to Salvador to run the seder. He tried hard to keep everyone involved by swapping between Portuguese, English and Hebrew, eventually more or less giving up and sped through the Haggadah, pausing for the songs that everyone knew, albeit in different tunes from around the world! Even though we were far from our family and friends, we felt close to home following familiar rituals, eating (more or less) familiar food and singing familiar songs. It was the singing of ‘Who knows one’ in Hebrew with a bunch of strangers from around the world who all knew the words that brought on my warm fuzzy feeling!
Music is powerful stuff and Brazilians, we are discovering, are the masters of rhythm! In Pelourinho, the old city of Salvador, we experienced the cultural mix of Bahia in action and were treated to 4 different kinds of music in just a few hours. First, the local capoeira group were in full form out in the plaza, and Boaz got inspired to give the Berimbau a whirl.
Wandering around the cobblestone streets we bumped into a marching percussion band, who channelled the Pied Piper and had a crowd of people following them as they twirled their drums and belted out the beats.
Back up in the square a seemingly impromptu bossa nova jam session had started, with many experienced musicians hanging out, drinking chopp (beer) and playing sweet tunes. Then, on the way back to the bus stop we passed an Indigenous band, all dressed up, and drawing in a crowd with upbeat flute-like melodies. It was a musical day.
We also discovered some local graffiti, more Bahian culture thanks to the fabulously dressed women (posing for photos with tourists and serving tapioca pancakes amongst other traditional Bahian foods) and a Brazilian cultural icon, the coconut (which you can buy at roadside kiosks everywhere for about $1, including the Airport arrival lounge where folks waiting in the arrivals were sucking on their straws!), turned into a public phone.
On the docks of the river delta, a half day bus ride from Salvador, we waited for our speedboat to the island of Boipeba and watched as bags of fruit and vegetables were being loaded onto the boats. Really this could have been a blog of its own as we spent almost a whole week in Boipeba, alas the daily routine of late breakfast, relaxing and reading in the hammock, a long afternoon walk and fresh fish caught by the local fishermen for dinner meant that we were just too relaxed to take many photos. Instead of raving about the stunning, isolated, empty beaches, i’ll let our few photos speak for themselves!!