Discussions, Interviews & Lectures Detail
:: Description :: Alan Lomax interviews Juanita Elbein in NYC on Brazilian Cults (six tapes)
:: Project :: Cantometrics
:: Date Range :: 09-01-1963 to 09-30-1963
:: Particpants ::
Lomax, Alan
Grauer, Victor
Elbein, Juanita
:: Subjects ::
Orishas in Yoruba religion
Carnival in Brazil
Color symbolism
Polyrhythm, general
Animal sacrifice
Umbanda, an Afro-Brazilian cult
Shango, an Afro-Brazilian cult
Condomble', Afro-Brazilian cult
Afro-Brazilian cults - gender roles in
Afro-Brazilian cults - children in
Afro-Brazilian cults - possession by opposite sex and homosexuality in
Afro-Brazilian cults - drumming in
Psychoanalysis, social, symbolism and ritual in
:: Cultures ::
:: Holdings ::
Media not yet available
:: Notes :: T1303: Three cults: Shango, Umbanda, and Candomble. Feminine male and masculine women tolerated in cults because seen as possessed by god of opposite sex. Women are not permitted at the festival because they could be menstruating. Subject to severe punishment, have to bring animals for sacrifice (results in more food for group). Cult seen as working out of group problem. Menstruating women represent castration and male fear of harming fetus. Presence impedes supernatural. Three phases of the ritual: Matanza, the sacrifice (real or symbolic). Always private. Music slow and solemn. There is clear separation of leaders and followers. Altars displayed. Possession by the Orishas, accompanied by public festival and dancing. Festival can last from two to six days. Third phase: Despacho. Private disposal of remains of banquet and animal. Purification of everything that has been touched by blood. People present at matanza required to cleanse bodies. Music for this is solemn and sad again. Umbanda is the most syncretized and most recent. No improvising during the ritual. Ogans (special priests) never get possessed but feel inspiration while singing and may create new words to songs to be sung later. Use Portuguese. Candomble and Shango. Songs are transmitted orally in African language (Yoruba). Priests know meaning but followers (filias) do not. Filias get possessed by orisha, dance, but don't sing. There are three drums, in some places called mother, father, and child. Orishas (spirits) are called by the drums and sung invocations. Shango and Candomble have the strictest organization and are the oldest (go back 350 years). T1304. In private life participants sing solo with guitar. When they sing in chorus it is a folkloric projection of the cults, as in Carnival. Some groups in Carnival are remnants of very old cults and are called Candomble of the Streets. Discussion over choral singing by Brazilian Negroes. No record of work songs with exception of fishing ritual ceremony, call-and-response with drums. Juanita Elbeiin calls singing games "projection of cults." Lomax: Work songs for laying track survived in New York laying until the 1950s. Explains that Negro song style changes quickly. Work songs are most elusive. Victor Grauer: Perhaps they sing in groups only in special, formal circumstances. Juanita Elbein: Perhaps because cults are forbidden there is a kind of self-censorship. No one has drums in his house, for example. Lomax: This means that Brazilian Negroes are stongly Europeanized. Group singing with call and response is characteristic of Southern Negroes and the West Indies. Acculturation is a two-way process. You have to look for things before they disappear. Alan discusses rate of style change in the Caribbean. Western Europe tends to stick to same costumes, rituals. Significance of Carnival costumes. Negroes in Brazil are an impoverished class. During Carnival they dress like Portuguese aristocrats with elaborate wigs and lace gloves. It is very dangerous for white people to be in the street. People are knifed in stomach. Identification and killing persecutory object. Capoeira: a martial art using whole body especially legs, holding knives between the toes. During the slave rebellion of 1839 capoiera groups used to be called "the fllying ones." Capoiera survives in Bahia. Alan Lomax contrasts African fighting groups of brothers to European ones where two knights fight each other. Symbolism of musical instruments: drums. Juanita Elbein: drum is related to mother and child, water related earth to sky. Made of calabash. Played with two sticks. Gives spirits freedom to go in and out of cult and not damage member inside. Drums change from cult to cult. Candomble drums are the same as in Cuba and Trinidad. Clothes: Shango groups don't change clothes, women wear long skirts with special blouses and head covering. Candomble men wear white trousers, sacred necklaces, change when possessed. Orishas have distinguishing colors. Umbanda wear long white dresses, spirits manifest themselves through choreography. Umbanda is the most syncretized. They have altar inside with statues of Catholic saints. T1305: Discussion of meaning of projection in cults. Animal is substituted for persecutory object. By drinking his blood devotees incorporate material substance of god/father/animal. Function of the songs is to label ritual sacrifice. First phase is working out of fantazied elimination of persecutory object. Everyone who participated in the killing must eat flesh of the god. They then take on the role of the god they killed. Guilt is shared. Formal regulation through liturgy makes it socially acceptable. There is collective expiation and purification. Elbein: Carnival is the remnant of a Dionysian cult. Christ is rebel son, self-identified with God when received Holy Spirit, punished self by killing self. T1306: Some differences between Umbanda and Candomble. Umbanda dances are more aggressive, possession more violent, dignity and slowless of movement lost. Candomble more controlled. Umbanda manifests more working out of psychopathological aspects. Some of more pacific Orishas associated with agriculture have disappeared. Warriors remain. Drums represent sado-masochistic aggression toward mother. Lomax: In secular life, guitar represents female shape, is played aggressively, percussively. Brazilians Negroes play samba with all kinds of percussion instruments. Cuica - shaped like a drum, sounds like crying, a highly considered traditional instrument. Texts of myths are esoteric knowledge. In Umbanda the songs have lost their meaning. In Shango and Candomble old people who have this knowledge are very respected. Not in Umbanda. Freudian psychology and anthropology. Juanita Elbein is trained orthodox psychoanalyst. For minorities persecution is real. Social therapy could solve problems that need to be dealt with on a social level. Latent and manifest content of ritual and art necessary for survival. T1307: Relationship of animals to orishas. Color symbolism. Significance of male and female roles. Hierarchy male. Cult members are women, associated with preparation of food and taking care of animals. Alan Lomax: Do women have more conflict and trauma? Juanita Elbein: Women are delegated to do the symbolic working out of latent trauma for the group. Juanita Elbein: During the matanza the vocal style is almost parlando. When spirits come in the drumming and singing take over. Alan Lomax: Everyone is well-coordinated, working together. Singing is orality: When identification with spirit is complete, singing and dancing become continuous. Discussion over role of rules. In Candomble the persecutory object is more openly killed, taken inside, identified with and then disposed of in a definite symbolic way. Shango also has strict regulation. Umbanda has more individual variation. Role of children in the cults. Children's candomble. Rhythmic conflict - a definite African (and South Indian) trait. Alan Lomax: We guess it to be associated with total independent initiative for women in all aspects of life. Symbolizes the attraction and pulling apart of males and females. Possession by god and "side god" in Shango and Candomble. In Umbanda all gods can possess adept. T1308: Juanita Elbein describes recording of cult ritual she has given to Alan Lomax.



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