THE HISTORY OF Jongo AND serrinha
The end of slavery did not end the injustices practiced against blacks. The former slaves and their descendants did not receive a piece of land to continue working in agriculture. Thus, they were forced to migrate to the city of Rio de Janeiro, then the capital of the country, in search of better opportunities. At the beginning of the century, Rio de Janeiro was already suffering from real estate speculation. The demolition works of the colonial center of the city, undertaken by the new policy of “beautification” in the French style and “sanitarization”, expelled the poor population from there to the top of the hills, hitherto uninhabited due to difficult access, inaugurating a new form of housing: the favelas.
The arrival of this population from the Paraíba River Valley made Rio de Janeiro the region of Brazil with the highest concentration of jongueiros. Despite the move to the city, these black families continued to dance the jongo in their new strongholds such as the hills of São Carlos, Salgueiro, Mangueira, and especially in Serrinha. Thus, thanks to the memory of these old jongueiros, it was possible to relive the past of the farms.By 1930, due to close contact with urban life, new fads and the death of the elderly jongueiros, the jongo gradually disappeared from the hills of Rio de Janeiro. However, Serrinha, located on the outskirts, isolated from the central part of the city, as if it were a distant “roça”, could preserve the traditional Afro-Brazilian culture.
The lives of the residents of this hill in the suburb of Madureira remained very similar to that of the times of the farms. Waterfalls, bamboo groves, wildlife, wood-and-pecker houses, lamp and red-hot iron continued to be part of everyday life. The festive spirit of the residents and the awareness of the importance of preserving black culture were fundamental to the formation of this nucleus of artist-family. The litanies, carnival blocks, pastors, umbanda houses, high-party samba, calango and jongo da Serrinha became famous, attracting the visit of intellectuals, politicians and artists on the other side of the city to their samba circles, celebrations, umbandas and candomblés.
Its residents led black and popular struggle movements, such as the foundation of Brazil’s first union, Cais da Estiva, where many of them worked and the foundation of the first samba schools.From the 1960s, many old Serrinha jongueiros were dying and, even in that community, the jongo wheels began to become extinct. Concerned about this, Master Darcy Monteiro and his family invited the former jongueiras Granny Teresa, Djanira, Aunt Maria da Grota and Aunt Eulália to form the artistic group Jongo da Serrinha and broke the taboo that prevented children from participating in the jongo.
Histor of Jongo in Brasil
The jongo, or caxambu, is a rhythm that had its origins in the African region of Congo-Angola. Arrived in Brazil-Cologne with blacks of Bantu origin brought as slaves for forced labor on the coffee farms of the Paraíba River Valley, in the interior of the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and São Paulo.
The demand for labor for work in mining and coffee farms intensified the slave trade. With the economic decay of other regions of the country, an immense mass of slaves immigrated to the Southeast where, at times, more than half of the population was made up of Africans, mostly of Bantu descent.
The influence of the Bantu nation was fundamental in the formation of Brazilian culture.To calm the revolt and suffering of blacks with slavery and distract the boredom of whites, the owners of the isolated coffee farms allowed their slaves to dance the jongo in the days of the Catholic saints.
For these black Africans and their children, jongo was one of the only allowed moments of exchange and fraternization.
The jongo is an unholy dance for fun, but a religious attitude permeates the party. In the past, only the elders could get on the wheel. Young people were left out watching. The old ones were very strict with the younger ones and required a lot of dedication and respect to teach the secrets or “mirongas” of the jongo and the fundamentals of its points.
The points of the jongo have encrypted metaphorical language, requiring a lot of experience to decipher their meanings.The jongueiros were true poet-sorcerers, who challenged themselves in the jongo circles to dispute wisdom. With the power of words and a strong concentration, they sought to delight the other through the poetry of the jongo point. Anyone who received an enigmatic point had to decipher it on the spot and answer it (“untie the point”). Otherwise, he would bewitched, “tied”, even fainting, losing his voice, getting lost in the woods, or even dying instantly. Currently these facts no longer happen.
The jongo is a dance of ancestors, of black-old slaves, of the people of captivity, and therefore belongs to the “line of souls”. They say that the one who has the “strong view” is able to see a deceased former jongueiro approach the wheel to remember the time when the caxambu danced.
They also say that some jongueiros, at midnight, planted in the yard a banana seedling that, during the early hours, grew and bore fruit distributed to those present.
To this day, some family nuclei of Afro-descendants persist in keeping alive the tradition of jongo.
Jongo and Samba
The jongo decisively influenced the birth of samba in Rio de Janeiro. At the beginning of the 20th century jongo was the most played rhythm at the top of the first favelas by the founders of samba schools even before samba was born and became popular. The old samba school samba old school samba players held jongo wheels in their homes. At these parties they visited each other, also receiving jongueiros from the interior.
The verses of the high party and the samba de terreiro are invented on the spot by the improviser. This improvisational song was born from the jongo wheels. The umbigada, which in the Quimbundo language is called “semba”, originated the term samba and is also part of primitive samba. The “mpwita”, Congo-Angolan instrument present in jongo, is the African grandmother of the drums of samba schools.
The jongo, being a fun party, but with mystical aspects, made the dance restricted to family environments. Therefore, unlike samba, which soon achieved national hegemony, it ended up being little publicized. The fact that jongo is practiced only by the elderly and prohibited for younger people was another factor that led dance to an accelerated process of extinction.
Blacks set up a fire and light the yard with torches.
On the other side, they set up a bamboo tent for the pagodas, a drag-foot where the couples dance the calango to the sound of the eight-bass accordion and tambourine.
At midnight, the oldest black woman responsible for the jongo interrupts the ball, leaves the tent and walks to the “beaten earth” yard. It’s time to light the fire and form the wheel. The sparks of the fire rise to the sky and mix with the stars. She blesses herself on the sacred drums, asking permission from the old blacks – former jongueiros who have already died – to start the jongo.
Improvise a verse and sing the first opening point. Everyone responds by singing loudly and clapping their hands with great excitement. Drum baticum is violent. The first couple heads to the center of the wheel. The dance begins.
During the early hours, participants bake sweet potatoes, corn and peanuts at the stake. Some smoke pipe, drink cachaça, coffee or hot cane broth to warm up.
The jongo is very lively and goes until the sun rises, when everyone sings to greet the dawn or “saravá the bar of the day”.
The jongo is danced on May 13, dedicated to black-old people, on the days of Catholic saints of devotion of the community, on June festivals, at weddings and, more recently, in public performances.
Jongueiros often dance barefoot, wearing ordinary everyday clothes.
The jongo is a wheel and navel dance. One couple at a time heads to the center of the wheel turning counterclockwise. From time to time, they approach and mention a navel. The navel in the jongo is by far away.
Soon another one enters the wheel, asking permission: “Give a godfather edge!” or “Get yo-yo out!” Couples, one at a time, take turns until morning in a dispute of strength, swing and agility.
During the dance, the couple engages in communication through the look, which determines the displacement by the wheel and the moment of the navel.
In the jongo da Serrinha, there is a step called “tabiá”, a strong step with the right foot.
The jongo is danced to the sound of two drums, a bass (caxambu or tambu) and a treble (cangueiro). The peak of the candongueiro crosses the valleys, warning the jongueiros of distant farms that it is jongo night.
The drums are made of tree trunk excavated with a piece of leather fixed with nails at one end. They are of Bantu origin and known in Angola and Brazil as “ngoma”. Before the jongo starts, they are heated in the heat of the fire, which stretches the leather and tunes the sound.
In some places, the drums are accompanied by a low-sounding cuíca, the angoma-puíta or jaguar (in Africa called “mpwita”), and by a braided straw rattle with a gourd bottom, called guaiá.
During the early hours, the drums begin to get damp with serene, losing their sound. That is why they are taken several times near the fire to be tuned. While waiting, the jongueiros go to the tent to dance the calango.
Drums are sacred, because they have the power to communicate with the other world, with ancestors, going “to seek those who live far away”. At the beginning of the party, the jongueiros will bless themselves, lightly touching their leather as a sign of respect.
Master Darcy invented a third solo drum reproducing the rhythmic cells emitted by guttural sounds that come out of the throat of the centenary jongueira Granny Teresa when she danced the jongo.
The cornerstone of jongo is responsorial. It is sung first by the soloist, with improvised free verses, and the chorus answered by all.
The jongo points have short sentences that portray the contact with nature, everyday facts, the day-to-day manual work on the farms and the revolt with the oppression suffered. They are sung in the language of the rural man, with an accent of black-old, and gungunados, in a kind of well grumbled guttural sound from the chest.
The dots mix Portuguese with legacies of the African dialect of Bantu origin, the quimbundo. They are created on improvisation and require great creativity, mental agility and poetry, very common to black Bantu.
The jongueiros exchanged the meaning of the words by creating a new vocabulary and started talking to each other through the jongo points in an encrypted language. Only someone with a lot of experience can understand its meanings. Thus, slaves communicated through secret messages, which often protested against slavery, mocked the bosses publicly, combined drum parties and escapes.
When some jongueiro wants to sing another point, interrupting the previous one, he puts his hands on the leather of the drums and shouts the word “axed” or “waterfall”. This silences the drums, interrupting the previous point and the dance so that the jongueiro then “takes” a new point.The points can be of several types:
**opening or license**– to start the jongo wheel
**praise**– to greet the place, the owner of the house or a jongueiro ancestor
**aim**– to brighten the wheel and amuse the community
**demand, strife or “gurumenta”**– for the fight, when a jongueiro challenges his rival to demonstrate his wisdom
**enchant**– it was sung when one jongueiro wanted to bewitch the other by the point
**closing or farewell**– sung at dawn to greet the arrival of the day and close the party
Vovó Maria Joana
Maria Joana Monteiro, Grandma Maria Joana Rezadeira, was born on June 24, 1902 at Fazenda Saudade, near Fazenda da Bem Posta, in Marquês de Valença, in the interior of the state of Rio de Janeiro. As a child he worked in rice, beans and coffee plantations. Her paternal grandparents were African, her maternal grandfather was black and her maternal grandmother Indian, “caught in the woods”. As a child, he worked in the field. He learned the jongo on the farm where he was born. When her godparents died, orphaned by her mother, Maria Joana went to live in Rio with her father, who also died soon after. He went to live in Cascadura, working as a wet nurse. After twelve years in Morro da Mangueira, he moved to Serrinha, where he stayed until his death. Married at the age of fourteen to his cousin Pedro Francisco Monteiro, also a jongueiro and cavaquinista. Pedro was Lloyd Brasileiro’s porter and, as soon as he arrived at Morro da Serrinha, dedicated himself to community work, helping to found the Império Serrano Samba School. Grandma Maria sang the litanies in Serrinha on St. Peter’s Day, in the house of Grandma Libya and Mr. Antenor, and on the rehearsal court of the Serrano Empire, on St. George’s Day, before the saint’s image left for the procession that runs through the streets of the suburbs. Grandma Maria paraded at the top of the car with the image of São Jorge, because she was the mother of Madureira’s most popular saint. He gave the jongo at his house on June 24, St. John’s Day, and his birthday. At the age of twenty-seven, she began to develop her mediumship and, after the death of her husband, built a space in her house for umbanda rituals. His terreiro, the Cabana de Xangô Spiritist Tent, has entered the history of Rio de Janeiro. Famous prayer, received a large number of children and adults with prayers that freed them from diseases such as “turned wind”, “fallen spel”, “break” and other evils. Grandma was also a midwife: many generations of Serrinha were trimmed by her hands. A woman of great charisma, wherever her strong presence came, attracted everyone, who soon surrounded her to know who that lady was so nice and well dressed, with her bright saintly clothes, which she herself created and sewed. Grandma devoted all her time to charity, opening her house to shelter the needy and offering them a roof and a plate of food. In intention to São Lázaro, the Umbanda Obaluaiê, Grandma Maria Joana held every year in her house the “Dogs Banquet”, a ritual in which a supper was served on the ground, first, for the nearby dogs. A beloved and prestigious figure, he cultivated friendships of famous artists, intellectuals, musicians and politicians. These often came from afar to advise themselves with their ancestral wisdom and participate in banquets watered with lots of food, drink, high-party and jongo. Clara Nunes, who since she was a girl frequented her house, became her saint’s daughter, as well as several other samba singers. Grandma Maria Joana has always been part of the samba world. Former member of the old Prazer da Serrinha school participated with her husband, in 1947, in the foundation of the Império Serrano Samba School, where since his first year she paraded in the Bahian wing, in addition to designing costumes for the school. Grandma Maria said that when she died, she would be happy to know that she had taught jongo to many people and that it would not end: “Everything has its owner. We don’t own anything, but what we get we have to pass on.” His house, at 124 Rua da Balaiada, in the heart of Serrinha — the slope where the Oliveira, Monteiro and Silas de Oliveira families live, and the founding site of the Serrano Empire — is still a nucleus that keeps alive important manifestations of Afro-Brazilian culture and a reference point for the entire community and its surroundings.
Mestre Darcy do Jongo (1932 – 2001)
Darcy Monteiro, Master Darcy do Jongo da Serrinha, was born on December 31, 1932 in Rua da Balaiada 124, Morro da Serrinha. Son of Pedro Monteiro and Grandma Maria Joana Rezadeira, he belonged to one of the most traditional dynasties of jongo in Brazil, being responsible for the perpetuation of jongo in Serrinha to this day. Following in the footsteps of his father, Pedro Monteiro, Darcy from an early age began to do community work in Serrinha. From a family of musicians he began his professional career at the age of 16, becoming a sensational percussionist. In 1947, he founded the Império Serrano Samba School, where he introduced agogo on drums for the first time, being soon copied by the other schools in Rio de Janeiro. Mestre Darcy was the founder — with Candeia, Wilson Moreira and Nei Lopes — of the Quilombo Black Art Recreational Guild, and also of the first children’s samba school, the Empire of the Future, being affiliated with the Order of Musicians of Brazil since its foundation. On National Radio, he accompanied big names in music, such as Geraldo Pereira, Francisco Alves, Jorge Veiga, Ataulfo Alves, Marlene, Emilinha, Herivelto Martins, Monsueto, Mário Reis. He was choreographer and rhythmist of a trio of tambourines at the Urca Casino, and acted in several nightclubs in the city. Traveled to France, Portugal, England, Uruguay and Argentina, participated in the Company of Carlos Machado and the Orchestras of Severino Araújo, Maestro Guido de Moraes, Raul de Barros and Paulo Moura. He also accompanied jazzist Dizzy Gillespie in his performances in Brazil, participated in the recordings of Milton Nascimento’s album “Mass of Quilombos”, and in albums by singers such as Roberto Ribeiro and Beth Carvalho. With his family and former jongueiros, he founded the Jongo da Serrinha group, at the time called Jongo Bassam, in order to resume the jongo wheels and disseminate the tradition. He introduced himself with his mother, Grandma Maria Joana Rezadeira, with his wife, Eunice Monteiro, his sister Eva, his son Darcy, his niece Dely, and the centenary jongueira Granny Teresa, Aunt Maria da Grota and Djanira do Jongo. He performed with jongo in several theaters in Brazil and abroad. Master Darcy as well as professional musician and jongueiro participated as an ogan in the activities of the Xangô Spiritist Tent playing drums for his mother and sister. Very charismatic Darcy was a drum playing phenomenon, danced and sang very well, composed several jongos and sambas, artistically directed the group and was a living legend, a character who linked the new generations to the musical past of the city of Rio de Janeiro. Owner of a strong personality broke three taboos: introduced harmony instruments in traditional jongo, began to teach rhythm to children and took the jongo from the backyards of Serrinha to the stage. In recent years, Master Darcy taught jongo to college students and students in general and even participated in the recording of CDs by new artists. Upon his death in December 2001, he left his son Darcy Antônio as heir to the ringtones of the jongo drums.
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