For the Afro-Brazilian musicians of popular Catholicism, or Congadeiros, who live precariously on the urban and rural margins of Brazil, ritual undergirds their struggles for subsistence, spiritual fulfillment, and racial equality. When Congadeiros create ritual, they enter into a tradition begun in the seventeenth century in Brazil by their enslaved African and Afro-descendant ancestors who intoned songs of redemption. In keeping with their ancestors’ evocations of dignity during slavery, worshipers in the present day embed multiple kinds of vested interests within ritual festivity to achieve racial equality. This article explores Congado, the ceremonies of these disenfranchised musicians, to gain a broader understanding of how they use the expressive modalities of music and myth as warrants of truth in their struggles against racism. Insofar as myth and music speak of racial pride and socio-religious transformation, they are reflective of practitioners’ efforts to build a collective epistemology through an acoustics of justice. Indeed, the pursuit to redress social disparities is no more clearly betokened than in the music and myth of Congado vernacular traditions. Thus, this article contributes an ethnomusicological perspective to an interdisciplinary conversation about the conditions of possibility that Congado music and myth afford for the attainment of socio-political transformation. In brief, I investigate the entwinement of music and myth to illuminate the racial economies of Afro-Brazilian devotional expression and call for an understanding of Congado as a crucial site for the poetics and politics of survival.
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Dempsey, Genevieve E.
"The Acoustics of Justice: Music and Myth in Afro-Brazilian Congado,"
Yale Journal of Music & Religion:
2, Article 1.