Imagine a human being with African features, green Euro eyes, and the straight hair and golden skin of an Amazon Indian. Welcome to 1/200 millionth of Brazil. And the Brazilian crucible forges more than human specimens capable of giving you whiplash. I mean, any gene-jocky these days can splice together an exotic franken-beauty. What is not available in labs, stores, MTV, or even most people’s wildest imaginations, is the alchemy of sound and motion that emerges from this melting pot.
Imagine a language with a cadence like Spanish, but with all the edges and corners smoothed out. Consider the phrase “half-moon.” In Spanish it would be pronounced “media luna.” Repeat after me: Meh-dee-ya lu-na. In Portuguese you would say “meia lua,” may-ah loo-ah, like surfing on smooth waves of silken cream. Spoken on the verge of singing, this language is part of why Brazilians are one of the most musically talented people on earth. The DNA of Brazilian music is the Samba, a rhythm that manifests in 10,000 forms of groovical fluidity.
The human body must move in response. Balanca (ba-lawn-saw) means to sway, swing, oscillate, and generally move like a wave in the sea. Combine balanca with the sleek feet of the jaguar, the force of Africa. The best I can say is “dance with a Brazilian.”
Unfortunately for me, it has been tough to get a Brasileira to continue dancing after she realizes that I can’t gyrate like an epileptic serpent. Luckily for me, and for those of you with any of the other myriad conditions which prohibit dancing with a Brazilian (lack of access to a Brazilian, a suspicious significant other, lower back pain) there is another way to experience this motion: come to the Wilma on Friday and see Roots of Brazil, a New York-based troop of top-notch Brazilian performers that has been blowing hearts for nearly two decades.
If you look at a map of the world you can easily see how South America and Africa could have once fit together. The bulge in South America that fits into the nook of Africa is the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, sometimes referred to as the capital of Africa in the Americas. This time around, Roots of Brazil is going to focus their performance of the music and dance of Bahia: afoxe—afro-samba, kind of like a cross between perpetual motion and your most memorable orgasm; samba de roda—literally, “samba circle;” capoeira—a form of self-defense that African slaves invented on the sly, disguised as a dance and practiced to music; Maculele—like capoeira, but with sticks.
What all of these forms have in common is the synthesis of song, dance, and spellbinding group energy that happens when you get more than one Brazilian performer together at a time. It’s a little like the critical mass at a gathering of plutonium particles, but the energy of a Brazilian meltdown affirms life, and breathes new life into those who didn’t even realize that part of their own deep-down has never even lived.
Roots of Brazil perform at the Wilma on Friday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $14 general, $12 students, available at all TIC-IT-E-Z locations or by calling 1-888-MONTANA (in Missoula: 243-4051).