Colloquium: Xavier Vatin, Music and Religion of the African Diaspora in Bahia, Brazil: From Africanisms to Métissage
Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology Research Colloquium Series, “Performing Diaspora, Extending Diaspora”
Friday, February 15, 2013
3:30 – 5:00 pm
Performance and Lecture Hall
800 N. Indiana Ave.
Visiting Scholar, Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies
Professor, Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia
Since 1992, I have studied Candomblé, an African-derived religion practiced in Bahia, Brazil, from an anthropological and ethnomusicological perspective, focusing on the quest for africanisms in both music and language as well as the conceptualization of ritual and musical métissage. Giving continuity to this study, my current research project examines the recordings made by African American linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner in Bahia in 1940 and 1941. His research involved recording and studying samples of the African languages spoken and sung in Candomblé. I aim to better understand the context of Turner’s research within the construct of African diaspora studies. At that time, Bahian Candomblé proved to be one of the most symbolic and effective centers of attraction in the quest for diasporic retentions and africanisms in the Americas. My research has shown that within Candomblé, elements of African, European, and Amerindian belief systems have experienced intensive cross-pollination, giving birth to what I call a double syncretism: intra-African and Afro-Catholic. This research has also demonstrated that the mixing of African and Amerindian worship patterns and the variety of relationships between music and possession call into question the structural distinction between possession and shamanism. The complexity of Afro-Bahian music and religion shows how difficult it can be to fit real practices into broad theories, pointing to the necessity of combining the research of Africanists and Americanists when examining the concept of the African diaspora in the Americas.