Several years ago we went to Brazil to study Afro Brazilian music and dance. We were fortunate to meet members and teachers from the famous group Olodum. It took me years, but I was finally able to get some video footage up of our trip there so here it is! But first a little bit abut the group Olodum!
Olodum is an internationally acclaimed Afro-Brazilian cultural group from Bahia, Brazil. Olodum (pronounced oh-lo-doon) was founded in 1979 as a bloco afro (African Bloc), a Bahian Carnival association highlighting African heritage and black pride through music, dance theater, and art. From their home city of Salvador da Bahia in Northeast Brazil (often described as the most African city in the Americas), Olodum has dedicated itself to cultural activism in the struggle against racial discrimination and socioeconomic inequality. They have done a great job.
Olodum takes its name from the Yoruba deity Olodumaré. They focus their yearly Carnival themes on controversial issues such as black power and socialist movements in Africa and the African Diaspora. In the mid 1980s, the head drummer in the group – Mestre Neguinho do Samba – experimented with Afro-Caribbean rhythms and mixed them with the Brazilian samba. He divided the large surdo bass drums into four interlocking parts and layered the high-pitched repique drums in additive rhythms on top. The result was a new style of music dubbed samba reggae that quickly dominated Bahian Carnival. In the late 1980s Olodum assumed premiere position among the blocos afro in Bahia and became internationally known. They formed a professional musical band Banda Olodum which has now recorded over ten CDs. Olodum musicians have worked with international luminaries such as Michael Jackson, Paul Simon, and SpikeLee.
During Carnival season the group now parades with some two hundred drummers, singers, and thousands of costumed members. But the group’s activities go well beyond Carnival and music. Throughout the year they sponsor seminars, speeches, and conferences on social and political issues and publish a monthly news journal, Bantu Nagô. They operate a factory where they make drums, costumes and other items which they sell to the public. Olodum also runs an inner-city school for Salvador’s underprivileged children in which they teach a full array of academic and arts courses in order to build self-esteem and encourage economic ascension among Salvador’s younger generation.