On the Upbeat, Positively Carolan

First “American” Music

Salvador da Bahia is a historic place in Northern Brazil, considered the African heart of Brazil and the first stop for 40% of all Black people dragged out of Africa. Brazil of course is in South America and the Portuguese colonized the country from the moment of discovery in 1508. Plus they imported the first Blacks out of Accra in what is now Ghana before 1540.

And since the captives could not bring drums or any musical instruments with them, in Bahia they invented the berimbeau (a sort of single string bass crafted from a sliced gourd, a long stick and a length of fishing line or some such, which is plucked with a bow). Thus, at least by my reckoning, the first “American” music was in South America — more than two centuries before the USA was formed.


typical berimbau


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