This is a place of many stories and history ... Made famous in our world by Samba Reggae and how that has transformed the world of street bands across the UK. From the collaboration by Olodum with Paul Simon on the rhythm of the saints album the beat suddenly became the hit for UK street bands wanting an easy way into doing groovy swing reggae feel grooves.....
And then as people travelled here to learn and take part in carnival .....
So arriving in this massive city is exciting. We are staying in the old city which has been much transformed over the past 8 years and made much safer for tourists and travellers. There are still areas that we have been warned not to go in and as we arrive a 1 am after delayed flights there is much police activity at the bottom of the big cobbled square by the hotel.
As well as Olodum who are a massive project there are many other music projects that work within the community here in Pelo and across the city using music as we do to bring people together and to enable the culture to directly help people. This is a reason for being here and leads us into a number of possible conversations. It is hard to knock on doors and to know exactly what are the questions ! We sent an email via Eraldo (Leon's partner at Global Grooves) and have been waiting on answers. As ever it is about looking for similarities and also differences that help us learn and develop.
The obvious questions are
How do the organisations choose the communities to work in.. Are they physical or 'conceptual'?
Are the leaders constant ( they are almost always led by a maestre) and how do young people progress ?
Is it just about the lead up to carnival?
Do the projects receive government funding for 'interventionist' projects?
Is it all about grooves and rhythm or are there aspects of songwriting, music tech, band work?
How do the projects relate to school and music education?
Is Salvador different to the rest of the country?
I am also looking to see whether when we return with some young people we could bring them here to see a different side of the country and also to have some workshops and understand the culture in new ways.
I go to meet Bira, a musician who runs a shop and also has courses for foreigners and also projects within the community. We talk in a mix of portugese, french and english and an exchange of email addresses creates the possibility of a future connection. He gives me a CD to bring back to the UK for Leon which was the result of a project in another part of Pelo.
I get the nerve to go and see Rita at Casa de Olodum and she agrees to meet the next day. It is so difficult (even with an introduction) to try and communicate and talk in a new language. When I do return she sends me to the Escola de Oludum where I am to meet Antonio (head of school).
We spend 90 minutes talking (mainly in Portuguese)and I learn about the system for their students, the levels of progression, the funding and the focus of the school. we are regularly interrupted by teachers and young people and I learn as much about him and the place by the way he deals with the interactions as I do from the main conversation.
I wonder whether this place receives many visitors. I wonder about how much it is the place of homage from visitors who have been 'caught' by the samba reggae bug? I wonder whether there is a shared place of learning when the cultures are so different. What can we learn from the way they work? What could they learn from our pedagogy? This comes right to the root of international projects.. aaaaaah. And also central to my thinking is the question of a sense of rooted culture - here it is so clear. with such a strong African root that permeates everything and in the UK where we live there is such confusion of cultural identity.
Time for a beer and a wander back to the hotel to see Kathryn again.