Salvador da Bahia is one of those cities that gets into your soul because it seems to have a soul of its own. You roam the winding cobble stone streets and the colorful colonial buildings light up your eyes, the aroma of African spices tingles your nose, and the taste of cachaça and sugar sweetens your lips. Your ears are filled with the sound of the drums that begin to beat into your body until you can feel the rhythm pulsing in your own heart. It gets inside you, this city, and stays with you long after you leave.
Salvador is the epicenter of Afro-Brazilian culture, a blend of Portuguese, African and indigenous cultures. It is also known as Brazil’s Capital of Happiness and here there is always a reason party, to make music, to dance; and the reason is simply a celebration of being alive. The first night I arrived there was a huge street party that began in those winding streets and ended with everyone in the central plaza. The energy was humming around us, a flurry of mixed activities in every corner that blend together creating something the Brazilians call movimento. As the fireworks starting going off above us I asked a local what this was all for, he bared his teeth laughing and said, “Because it’s Tuesday.”
What I remember most about Salvador is the sound of the drums. You go to sleep with the drums, you wake up to the drums; they even beat in your dreams. One thing you must do while there is take an Afro-Brazilian dance class. I’ve never before or since seen bodies move like that. The drummers were on the side of the class and as they played the music moved my body before my brain even had the chance; it took over and consumed every part of me from the inside out. At the end of the class the drum beat became erratic and ecstatic and everyone gave into it, as if possessed; and then at the last beats we all dropped down to our knees and bowed in joy and respect to the drums and the drummers. It was a deeply moving experience, a moment of time that has since become a part of me, and ever since, the sound of drums brings me back to those beats in Bahia.
(The video below is not my own and was published on YouTube by TheSambaYogi)