DIALOGUES: Towards Decolonizing Music and Dance Studies

Cucumbis, Jongo, and Samba de Partido Alto

This session was cancelled. Please find below the information and abstract about the planned session.


Denise Barata (Rio de Janeiro State University)


Denise Barata




Denise Barata, Thaise Rezende Lima, Danielle Souza Coutinho (Rio de Janeiro State University)

Our proposal presents research carried out by multiple members of the Laboratory of Orality and African Memory and the Diaspora, at Rio de Janeiro State University. Addressing different temporal and spatial locations, the researchers address memories and celebrations of Central Africans who were forcibly brought to Brazil as slaves, from as early as the sixteenth century. The first presentation investigates groups established by Central Africans in the city of Rio de Janeiro in the early nineteenth century, through a review of newspapers. These groups organized funeral processions for Black kings, accompanied by music and dances known as cucumbis. The funerals disappeared in the middle of the nineteenth century but not before inspiring new forms of celebration. The celebrations began to take place during the Carnival period, giving rise to Carnival Cucumbis. The second presentation examines oral histories in an analysis of contemporary jongo practices. Traditional communities in Rio de Janeiro practice jongo as a way of talking to one’s ancestors through dancing, drumming, and singing. This research, still under development, seeks to understand the construction of a new form of political action that comprises bodies, voices, and songs as places of memory. It aims to understand ways in which practitioners of jongo, or jongueiros, keep the culture of their ancestors alive. Finally, a presentation on samba de partido alto provides an ethnographic study of this vocal practice, which involves a vocal challenge between two or more singers/composers that is accompanied by clapping, percussive instruments, and collective singing of the song’s chorus. Specific elements of samba de partido alto have hindered its inclusion in samba that is tied to national memory, which incorporates elements of whiteness. These elements include responsive singing, vocal quality of singers, and composition in action (“improvisation”). The themes presented in this ICTM Dialogues session describe experiences in which Black bodies and voices in celebration exhibit and circulate memories in a counter-hegemonic way of understanding and living. We propose an understanding of these festive activities as alternative modes of experiencing and ways of being in the world, places where we fight against the structural racism that persists in Brazilian society.

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