Hiding musicians in yards and back rooms, this fearless community leader protected Afro-Brazilian music and traditions that live on a century later This week, Rio de Janeiro should have been celebrating, its streets alive with local people and tourists honouring the city’s Carnival, a tradition dating back to the 17th century. But for the first time outside the two world wars, the city’s flagship event is cancelled. It’s the only reasonable decision given how out of control the pandemic is in Brazil – yet locals and tourists are still mourning the loss of the world’s most prestigious pre-Lent festival, one rooted in the sound of samba. A century ago, samba becoming synonymous with Brazil’s cultural identity would have seemed impossible. In the early 20th century, Rio’s ruling elite were ashamed and afraid of the rhythm, which was linked to African-Brazilian cults. Samba faced police persecution: musicians were frequently arrested, their instruments confiscated or destroyed; gatherings were abruptly shut down. It might not have lasted were it not for the intelligence and diplomacy of the entrepreneur, artist, spiritual guide and community leader known as Aunt Ciata.
Read full story