Welcome to the performance “Calungá – o mar que separa é o mar que une” [Calungá – the sea that separates is the sea that unites]. In the Bantu language, the word “Calungá” means “sea,” an element that initially represented the separation of enslaved Africans from their homeland, but that later also came to symbolize the possibility of return and the fusion of cultures to create a new identity.
The storyline of this performance features vissungos, the work songs of African descendants living in the Diamantina region of Minas Gerais, which were compiled by Aires da Mata Machado Filho in the book “O Negro e o Garimpo em Minas Gerais” [African Brazilians and Mining in Minas Gerais]. The book served as inspiration for the album “Canto dos Escravos” [Songs of Slaves], which was released in 1982 and featured Clementina de Jesus, Tia Doca and Geraldo Filme performing some of the songs. The album served as a starting point for Calungá, but this time the bodies and voices of the Guri narrators bring a new perspective to this ancestral repertoire. The performance also includes songs that represent different times in history, reflecting the very dynamic nature of this cultural matrix that permeates our lives to this day.
Naná Vasconcelos, the musician who created the performance, is acknowledged by many critics as the best percussionist on the planet. A Grammy winner in 2011, he began playing at age 12 with his father in a band in Recife, a city in Brazil’s Northeast.
Approximately 40 students from the Guri Program’s percussion and choir classes were selected to participate in the performance.