A New Day Will Come: Intersections of Faith, Place, and Space in the Brazilian Congado Mineiro
Music plays an active role in connecting the history, culture, and spirituality of Africans in the Americas. For hundreds of years, the Congado (an Afro-Brazilian religious drumming and singing procession, coronation ceremony, and Catholic Mass) has been present throughout Brazil and continues to be a vibrant manifestation today. I consider how the Congado Mineiro (from Minas Gerais) intertwines African-descended beliefs with Catholicism to preserve and remember lived and imagined reflections of the past, while projecting a brighter future. In addition to focusing on this musical tradition within a historical perspective, I examine how it is interpreted by multi-generational neighborhood groups as well as more recent youth social service projects within a single Brazilian city. Both distinct perspectives share a protective space and sense of community emerging directly from the music, whether in a church, on the street, or at a formal performance venue.
The Associação das Guardas do Congado (Association of the Congado Guards), from the city of Itabira, Minas Gerais, consists of approximately 300 individuals who comprise 11 neighborhood groups. I contrast this with the Meninos de Minas (Youth from Minas) from the same city, which has adapted these drumming rhythms for use in regional popular music arrangements but has not adhered to the religious or cultural aspects of the greater tradition. Intersections between geographical boundaries (Portugal, Africa, Brazil, and the United States) and religious belief systems were highlighted at a Missa Conga (Congado Mass) held at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in April 2018. This event was officiated by a Catholic priest originally from Angola, bringing another level of discussion and interpretation of this unique intersection of Portuguese, African, and Catholic Diasporas. This presentation includes musical, rhythmic, and video examples as well as a discussion of equity and access to religious institutions by practitioners from marginalized and disenfranchised communities.
Eric Galm is professor of music, co-director of the Center for Caribbean Studies, and music department chair at Trinity College in Hartford Connecticut. He founded the Trinity Samba Ensemble and the Samba Fest, a music festival featuring the United States debut performances of several Brazilian artists. He has conducted research, presented and performed in Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, the United States and Canada. His book The Berimbau: Soul of Brazilian Music (Mississippi 2010) is the first academic study of the Brazilian musical bow. In September 2018, he was awarded Honorary Citizenship from the City of Itabira, Minas Gerais, Brazil after he helped produce perhaps the first Missa Conga drumming mass in the United States. Additional awards include a Fulbright Fellowship, Latin Grammy Cultural Foundation grant, Trinity College (Trustee Award for Excellence and Hughes Teaching Achievement), and Hartford-based SINA Steve Balcanoff Award for “significant contributions to the betterment of the community.”