While maintaining a full-time music career, Gilberto Gil was also actively working the political scene to advocating for environmental protection. In 2003, under the Lula da Silva administration, he was appointed Brazil’s Minister of Culture, becoming only the second black person to serve in the nation’s cabinet.
Tia Ciata (Hilaria Batista de Almeida, 1854-1924)
(Edited from her biography by Alvaro Neder)
Tia Ciata, aka Tia Assiata, was a woman from Bahia who had a fundamental role in the birth of Cariocan urban samba as a genre. She migrated to Rio from Bahia in 1875 and developed an informal cultural center at her home, where she would initiate the biggest composers and musicians of Rio de Janeiro of her time into the subtleties of samba from Bahia. As a result of this, in 1917, the first samba to be recorded, “Pelo Telefone,” was a collective composition done in her house, in which she herself participated, along with others.
During the day she would sell tidbits downtown, and at night she would reign in her home as an organizer of meetings for black townspeople. She was a leader in the Candomblé religion and would hold worship rituals for the orixas at her residence. It is important to note that, in that period, there were no public places for the poor or black inhabitants to socialize. So the meeting places of these segments of society were essentially family homes. Tia Ciata’s house became legendary because not only would she hold regular Candomblé sessions, but also because these sessions were followed by a samba, a kind of party where people could drink, eat, play, dance to music, meet and mingle, thus producing the birthplace of samba in Rio. In fact, as the sambas were persecuted by police, they were frequently disguised as religious activities. So, in these festive reunions, Tia Ciata’s house became widely known in Rio. Not only to black people, but also politicians, bohemians, musicians, and batuqueiros (percussionists) would gather there, attracted by her excellent culinary skills and the music. The parties could last for several days in a row, and people would spend the entire time there without returning to their homes until the feast was over.
The cultural exchange was the central focus in Tia Ciata’s house. Being a precursor of the migratory movements of blacks arriving from Bahia to Rio with the end of slavery (1888, five years after her arrival) and the massive demobilization, in 1897, of the troops of Baianos engaged in the fight against the fanatic religious leader Antônio Conselheiro, Tia Ciata was on the verge of a movement which would deeply influence the national culture via its ascendancy over the important capital, Rio de Janeiro. The most important composers and musicians of the time, like Caninha, Joao da Baiana, Donga, Pixinguinha, Sinhô, and Heitor dos Prazeres, along with less representative names like João da Mata, Mestre Germano, Minan, Didi da Gracinda, and João Câncio were regulars at her house. Disciples that continued her work were her son Eduardo da Tia Ciata, her granddaughters Lili da Tia Ciata and Tia Cincinha, her grandson Buci Moreira, Ministrinho da Cuíca, Dino, and Santa, among others. In that close interlacing of Baianos and Cariocas, Tia Ciata was one of the most influential tias (aunties) from Bahia, through her influential cultural center, that introduced the Cariocas to the culture from Bahia.
Cortejo Afro was formed and made its Carnival debut on July 2, 1998 in the streets of Pirajá, a community in Salvador. The Bloco is rooted in the spiritual guidance and principles of an established Candomblé house in Salvador, Ilê Axé Oyá, and Cortejo Afro’s artistic design and Afrocentric creative expression was founded by artist Alberto Pitta. Concerned about the predominance of Axé music, Cortejo Afro was formed in an attempt to reestablish the African identity of Carnival. The Bloco-Afro was one of many to reinstate pride of African heritage, culture, and standards of beauty in the local celebration of Carnival which reaffirmed the values and aspects of black culture in Bahia as a means to elevate the community.
Batala Mundo members enjoy joining and playing in Cortejo Afro‘s bloco during Carnival every year. Batala was founded by former Cortejo Afro member, Giba Gonçalves. How many Batala Mundo members can you peep in this video? (Hint: look at the drum heads)