ILE AIYE: PERFORMING AFRO-BRAZILIAN IDENTITY THROUGH MUSIC
Witzleben, J. Lawrence
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Originating in Salvador, Bahia, the musical genre and carnival performance known as "bloco afro" combines rhythms based on Afro-Brazilian ritual music played on percussion instruments with lyrics that highlight themes of black pride and resistance. The term `bloco' refers to groups that parade together during carnival, and `afro' describes the emphasis on manifestations of African and Afro-Brazilian culture. At its founding in 1974, the first bloco afro, Ile Aiye, inspired a cultural movement by establishing a visible and intentionally black bloco afro in Liberdade, a historically black community in Salvador. Performed by large collectives of drummers and dancers dressed in brightly colored African clothes, many performers with intricately braided hairstyles or dreadlocks, the music was initially linked to a growing movement of Afro-Brazilian activists in black neighborhoods of Bahia promoting racial consciousness and organizing political interventions to combat racism. This study explores bloco afro as a musical movement within the broader context of the contemporary Movimento Negro (Black Movement) in Brazil, and its role in constructing racial identity among black Brazilians. Primarily an ethnomusicology-based study, a trans-disciplinary approach using cultural studies and performance studies is applied toward developing an analytical framework for bloco afro performance, with a focus on identifying specific factors and processes that create and promote musical meaning and the role they play in constructing black identity.