In an article on CANOEtravel.com, called “Jongo Makes a Comeback,” written by Peter Muello, he tells the story of Jongo, an old ritual dance, of which Samba was originally derived, is coming back in style. Jongo is especially popular in Valenca, Brazil.
Muello writes, “In the old slave quarters of a colonial coffee plantation, conga drums echo in the night air. A couple in white whirl and glide across an earthen clearing as villagers sing of sharecroppers, coffee planters and slaves long dead.
The dancers pause, and applause thunders through the village. Lights from a TV camera crew illuminate hundreds of Brazilians gathered at the Sao Jose plantation for a colonial-era celebration that once seemed all but extinct.
It’s jongo (pronounced ZHON-go) — part dance and part spirit religion ritual, a legacy of the African slaves who worked in the coffee fields near this city 135 kilometres northwest of Rio de Janeiro.
“It’s an oral art, with melodies and words passed on from generation to generation, with practically no written record,” says samba singer Luciane Menezes. “It’s surprising that it survived.”
It nearly didn’t. Jongo faded after slavery was abolished in 1888 and coffee declined in Valenca. Many plantation workers moved to the cities, where jongo music evolved into samba, Brazil’s signature rhythm.
But jongo endured in Valenca’s tiny Sao Jose “quilombo,” or slave-era community. Families here live in mud-and-thatch huts, cook on wood-burning stoves, grow the corn, beans and manioc they eat, and dance jongo as they have for generations.
“Jongueiros” still make their drums from hollowed-out tree trunks, with tanned cowhide nailed on and laid by the fire to tighten. At each gathering, a village elder asks slave spirits for their blessing.
The dance hasn’t changed…”
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