Samba de Coco Raízes de Arcoverde

Coco Raízes de Arcoverde no Alto do Cruzeiro - evaldo pereira

“The group Samba de Coco Raízes de Arcoverde came about from the meeting of families that traditionally danced coco in Arcoverde. Founded in 1996, under the leadership of Luís Calixto Montenegro, a coco master who passed away in 1999, the group is a space of cultural resistance from the legacy of all the coquistas that made the coco their art along the 20th century in the city of Arcoverde, Pernambuco.

Today, with 27 participants, among them adults, adolescents and kids, Raízes de Arcoverde revived the samba de coco dancing with regularity and has already recorded their sounds on a CD that carries their name. Having grown popular in their hometown, Raízes is one of the most respected and well-known coco groups in Pernambuco. And it isn’t the first time that samba de coco from Arcoverde has called attention to itself from outside its city’s limits, as it was the subject of a famous expedition of a cultural mapping project by Mário de Andrade in the 1920s and ’30s.” – Source (PT)

For a detailed look at the samba de coco in Arcoverde, see the great blog Pernambucolismo (PT). To hear the group’s first CD, search around Youtube for their name together with any songs that have this CD cover. Below is an excellent song from that CD. The second video is part of a show and interview with the group.

Musical Style

“Coco is a music and dance style from north-eastern Brazil, whose origins are not fully known. Some argue that coco appeared among the Afro-Brazilian slaves and that it is based on Angolan folk music. However, many others instead argue that coco was created in the meeting between African and Amerindian cultural elements, with some influences from colonial Portugal. Others yet believe that coco music was born in the legendary Quilombo dos Palmares (a town founded by runaway Afro-Brazilian slaves in the interior of the state of Alagoas, who for over a century, managed to defend themselves standing up to the Portuguese colonialists’ attacks). Another theory is that coco originated among coconut plantation workers, which would explain the music style’s name, (coco means coconut in Portuguese).

Coco has long since been common in the coastal regions of north-eastern Brazil, but also occurs inland. The traditional coco music consists of singing accompanied by the rhythm of a ganzá, a surdo and a pandeiro, hand-clapping and foot stomping. The coco rhythm is usually marked by three distinct tappings in the soil, or drum beats. A typically African feature of the coco songs is its structure based on call and response. A single lead singer, called “coqueiro” or “tirador de coco”, starts the song by singing the often improvised verses. He is then answered by the dancers, who also act as a chorus. The melodies, and lyrics, are often rather melancholic and are presented in a relatively slow manner. The atmosphere of the music can be described as resembling early North-American blues. The coco dance is based on the African umbigada and is similar to the samba de roda dance.

There is a wide range of subgenres to coco, such as coco-de-roda, coco-de-embolada, coco-de-praia, coco-do-sertão, coco-de-zamba, coco-de-ganzá , coco-agalopado, coco-catolé, coco-de-desafio, coco-de-umbigada and coco-canção. In some places, mostly in the state of Pernambuco, the coco is accompanied by more powerful drums, such as alfaias and caixas, rendering the music a heavier, maracatu like character.

Coco-de-embolada clearly differs from other coco styles, as its lyrics consist of tongue-twisting wordplays, with a melodic structure that is very similar to that of modern rap music. Coco-de-embolada also often involves a challenge between two different singers, who compete to see which one of them has the fastest and best rhymes. The coco-de-desafio also includes a challenge, but instead of rhymes, it’s all about the dance, usually performed only by men, whose goal is to outdo their opponents in terms of agility, strength and sense of rhythm. Coco-canção is a much slower form of coco, which is not intended to be danced to.

During the 1800’s, the Brazilian authorities did not take kindly to the inherent eroticism of the coco dance, which was denounced as immoral, and attempts were therefore made to completely prohibit coco. The coco however survived and for many decades was very popular in the whole Nordeste region, not only among the poor, but also in middle class. Today, the coco lives very much in the shadow of forró, samba and modern pop music.

Perhaps the most famous coco-artist in modern times was Jackson do Pandeiro, from the state of Paraíba. He had his glory days as an artist during the 1950’s and 1960’s. Coco music experienced something of a rebirth during the 1990’s, when the famous band Nação Zumbi incorporated it’s rhythm into the band’s modern and highly innovative music. Among the talented and popular representatives of the traditional coco in recent decades are Selma do Coco, Lia de Itamaracá and Zé Neguinho do Coco.” – Source

Below is a video (PT) which talks about the history of the Samba de Coco.


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