Highlights of Musical

About the works

The Coming Decline of Frevo

Tambourine Playing in Brazil

The African Influence in Brazilian Music

Frevo Steps and Music

Art and Artists

In Terms of Music from São Paulo

A Mistaken Analysis of a Brazilian Rhythm

Scales in Brazilian Folk Music

The Indians of Petrópolis

Índios or Cabôcos of Petrópolis

Notes on Playing Marbles

Variations on the Boi

Variations on the Baião

Variations on the Maxixe






A Traditional Northeastern Band

A Gazeta – São Paulo, October 25, 1958.

        The name “zabumba” is not just the name of the popular bombo (large bass drum). In the Northeast at least “Zabumba” is also a traditional band typical of the region’s culture.

        The formation of the Zabumba varies according to the area and economic resources [purchasing of instruments]. If, for example, a band in Alagoas normally has three pífanos [bamboo flutes] and drums, in Pernambuco the group has two pífanos, tarol [snare drum] and a zabumba [bombo]. In the large cities – with the sole exception of Recife – there is an abundance of cymbals, played by just one musician. The group usually has four to six musicians.

        Zabumba bands are a must at all parties, open or private, attended by the average citizen. They are heard in the squares, playing on the bandstands, and at weddings, birthdays and official religious celebrations, including novenas and processions.

        For this reason they have an extremely varied repertoire, with both tonal [in the classical sense] and modal music. Here are some of the musical forms they play: Marcha, as seen in the South; Dobrado, idem; Dobrado-de-igreja, played in front of the Catholic church from which a procession leaves; Marcha-caminheira, to “accompany the saint” in the procession; Frevo, the traditional Pernambuco march; Tango,  the Brazilian Tango, which in Rio de Janeiro is called the Maxixe, as the researcher deduced; Baião, in its many forms; Abaianada, a curious specimen with Baião and Tango; Martelo, a variant of the former; Valsa-sonora, that is to say slow and sentimental; Novena, a type of funeral march; etc., etc., Also: Choro; Waltz; Polka; Quadrille; Galope; Samba, in any style – and the list goes on. They could even be playing Boleros these days... in their own way, of course, reviving it and taking out its cosmopolitism and gloominess.

    In addition, Zabumbas play special songs for the different moments of the Cavalhadas and sometimes accompany the dança do Côco. Yet the most curious numbers in their extensive repertoires are the descriptive Duets, meant for listening and not for dancing. It is traditional [...]. The panther and the dog, with its spirited instrumental effects. But the people also make up songs telling fictitious stories with symbolic characters, usually as satire or social commentary.

        The name Zabumba may be the most common one for these bands, but people do use other names too. We heard the following, some more, others less, according to sources: Tabocal, Terno, Terno-de-oréia, Pifeiros, Banda-de-pife, Matuá, Zabumbeiros, Esquenta-mulher, Quebra-resguardo and Carapeba. The following names are used in Alagoas: Esquenta-mulher and Carapeba. The bibliography documents the following names: Cabaçal [in Ceará; it is unheard of in the areas of Pernambuco I visited]. Cutilada [Paraíba], Música-de-pife, Zabumba-de-couro, Música-cabaçal, Banda-cabaçal, Terno-de-zabumba and Terno-de-música.

        Since the Zabumba pífanos are made of bamboo, the instruments always produce a gentle sound, even when played energetically; the percussion instruments restrain themselves to achieve the appropriate intensity. These are the things that make Zabumbas normally very pleasing, but with room for the variety and rhythmic drive characteristic of folk music.