VARIATIONS ON THE BAIÃO
POPULAR MUSIC MAGAZINE
Whether as a dance
or a song – sung or instrumental – the baião has many different
features, making it difficult to chart its most salient characteristics.
Of course this is due to the scarcity of material from authentic
folk sources, which would allow us to compare examples and determine
how much variety there is.
Siqueira noted that “baião” is a corrupted form of “bailão,”
or “baile grande” (big dance) [Influência Ameríndia na
Música Folclórica do Nordeste, p. 72]. The author turns
to Gustavo Barroso to explain how Brazilians shaped the word. This
doesn’t seem so unlike the original if we consider the popular and
antiquated Portuguese usages still spoken in the Northeast, which
have often spread nationwide. In Portugal we find the expression
“balho” to mean “baile,” for the Portuguese dances,
leading to the Brazilian form that Siqueira suggests gave origin
to our word for folk dance. The term may also have come from elsewhere:
“Baião” is the name of a Portuguese writer mentioned in the Enciclopédia
e Dicionário Internacional [Vol. X, p. 5907]. However, the word
may have been adopted in Portugal subsequent to its initial use
holds that “baião” is a corruption of “baiano.” Many
of our most qualified scholars consider this to be the case, perhaps
because the dance appears to have originated in the lundu
– a form of folk music that in some cases was called lundu-baiano.
“Baiano” would indicate its geographical origin: Bahia. Nonetheless,
the process could have happened inversely, meaning the expression
“baiano” came from the word “baião.” This is similar
to the “Maneiro pau,” another folk dance form; it has nothing
to do with Minas Gerais, but is how people from the Northeast refer
to “Mineiro pau.” Another example would be “fardo português,”
which scholars tell us historical records indicate originated in
Colonial Brazil; to date no one has contested this assertion, much
less provided proof to the contrary.
One of the baião’s
most distinct characteristics is its disconcerting variety, especially
rhythmic, in stark contrast with trendy commercial recordings with
their standardized formulas and consequent stereotyping of its key
and “baiano” are words that can be loosely applied to many
different folk dance and music expressions. It is an exquisite element
in the merriment of Bumba-meu-boi, which Gustavo Barroso
and other writers frequently cite. However, we must ask: Are all
the songs from this celebration baiões? Evidence says no,
since Bumba-meu-boi has, for example, the song of the Pastorinha,
the song for splitting the “dead” Boi and also the “animal’s”
wake – a curious Brazilian funeral song. The merry making includes
other songs as well that are not exactly baiões.
In Maranhão, folk
bands commonly play dance songs in which singers participate. When
the voices pause, a solo instrument improvises variations over a
harmonic base, after which the singing resumes. This instrumental
interlude allows the voices to rest without interrupting the dance.
There they call this instrumental improvisation baião.
throughout the Northeast play their baião as instrumental
music. It has a short theme on which the pifeiros improvise
an infinite number of variations. I think these Bandas play
a singing version of the baião also when they are energizing
the dances they play for.
Someone from Conquista,
a city in southern Bahia, told me they dance the baião, but
this one is similar to “tango” music. It is the “Brazilian tango,”
or “tanguinho,” which has an urban version known as the “maxixe.”
The Recife Cabocolinhos
band also play the baião, but with a completely different
structure. Essentially instrumental, vibrant and brisk, it is played
during the manobras (maneuvers), the danced sections between
the theatrical parts.
In terms of its
being “joyful,” “varied” and “fast,” baião morphed into new
words referring to these characteristics. So the Banda-de-pife
plays a song even more accelerated than the baião, like it
comprised of variations on a theme: it is the “abaianada.”
The term even found its way into Recife’s African religious groups:
a certain beat [rhythmic type], when played with the austerity of
some of the “chants,” is designated Moçambique. If the “chant”
is less “intense” and gives the musicians some freedom, they let
their rhythmic creativity and group playing spawn as many variations
as the rhythmic base of the Moçambique will allow. The beat
then takes the name Moçambique-abaianado or Moçambique-variado,
or more simply, abaianado or baiano. The variation
must accelerate, driven by the participants’ excitement. We see
the very same details in the Batá-abaianado beat.
derivations were probably already in use in the last century: Mário
Sette [Arruar, p. 170] documented a “modinha abaianada,”
published in old Recife.
Here we should
note the joyful bell ringing of the Recife churches, called… “baião.”
The word in this sense is used less and less, primarily by the actual
church staff. Note that it was the Negros of the Maracatus
that used to perform this function in the Catholic temples of the
Pernambuco capital, which explains the similarity between these
rhythms and the percussion of the Maracatu.
So we have seen
the diversity in the musical expressions called “baião” or
“baiano,” all characterized by joyfulness, variation and