Taieira’ is a parade-dance, of a religious and profane nature, whose participants sing religious and popular songs, dance and play percussion instruments and accompany the Our Lady of the Rosary and St Benedict festivals, the patron saints of black people, commemorated on 6 January (the Epiphany).
The oldest records of ‘taieira’ in Brazil, through all indications, date from the 18th century during the celebrations of the marriage of Dona Maria I, which occurred in 1760, in Santo Amaro, Bahia.
Some time ago, these folkloric manifestations were found in various cities in Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia. Today, however, the ‘taieira’ continues to exist, in its regular form, in few places, such as the municipalities of Laranjeiras, São Cristóvão and Japaratuba, in Sergipe.
Taieira’ dances are performed in a circle or two rows. Their characters are represented by the ‘Taieiras’, dancers dressed in red blouses and white skirts decorated with coloured ribbons: Guias (Guides) or the chiefs of the cordons or rows, who wear a green sash on their waist and another yellow one crossing their chest (the colours are inverted in the other cordon), bracelets, necklaces, a white hat with red ribbons and flowers, as well as a small basket fastened to their arm; the ‘Lacraias’ (a corruption of the Portuguese ‘lacaia’ - lackeys), young women who hold the sun umbrellas for the queens and who don’t wear special costumes; ‘Capacetes’ (Helmets), boys who guard the kings; the Ministro (Minister), a boy who escorts the king; Patrão (Boss), the young man who plays the drum; Rei (King), the crowned boy and the Rainhas (Queens), women who wear the same costume, with a lace mantilla over their shoulders, a white triangular headscarf fixed by a ribbon, and a cardboard crown decorated with silver sand, necklaces and bracelets. A stick of about 70cm long, covered with paper and with plastic flowers on its end serves as a sceptre.
The costumes of the male characters are similar, distinguishable only by small details. All wear red pants with yellow stripes on their side, blue long-sleeved shirts, also with yellow strips. The accessories are what identify the characters: the Boss wears a white hat and his drum is decorated with yellow and red; the Helmets wear red cloaks, a silver paper crown and have a wooden sword; the Minister has a white cloak, blue cape with ermine decorations, gloves, a sword, a golden crown with a gold star, medallions and “decorations”.
The musical instruments used are ‘querequexés’, a type of um tin rattle, and a drum. In some dances, called ‘combats’, the sticks are used as instruments to mark the rhythm.
The dance has simple choreography, with either slow or fast dance steps in time with the singing and the beat of the sticks. They are the main attraction, not only for their frequency but for the beauty of their movement. During the “combats” the dancers rhythmically beat their sticks which they have brought with them and perform sinuous movements called “meia-lua” (half-moons).
The Queens are crowned during the mass with the crown of Our Lady of the Rosary, which the priest takes in his hands, places on their heads, blesses them and removes it. After this, the cardboard crowns returned to the heads of the Queens. Next, the ‘taieiras’ form two groups in the central nave of the Church, genuflect and, to the sound of the drum and the querequexés, praise the saints and offer flowers to them:
Sinhô São Binidito, taiê (Lord St Benedict, I’m here)
São Binidito valei-se (St Benedict I praise thee)
Aqui está sua devota, taieira (Here is your devoted, ‘taieira’)
Com sua devoça, istarei (With your devotion, I will be)
After the devotions, they exit the church without turning their backs on the altar and proceed through the city streets performing their parade-dance.
The ‘taieira’ is performed in the Church, for the Queens’ coronation, and the praising of the saints in the homes of the most distinguished people of the city or in front of the main church.
The songs, with religious and profane themes, praise and ask for protection from the saints, as well as reflecting social situations from the present and the past, remembering the royalty of the Congo:
Senhora do Rosário (Lady of the Rosary)
Senhora do mundo (Lady of the world)
Dê-me um copo d’agua (Give me a glass of water)
Se não vou ao fundo! (If not I will go down!)
Catarina mubamba mandou me chamá (Catarina mubamba asked for me)
Louvô em terra louvô no má (I praised her on land and praised her at sea)
A rainha do Congo mando me chamá (The queen of the Congo asked for me)
Traditionally connected to the festivities of the Catholic Christmas cycle, the ‘taieira’ nowadays is presented also at cultural festivals and folkloric gatherings. In Laranjeiras, the dance is also part of the Bom Jesus dos Navegantes (Sweet Jesus of the Navigators) festival.
Recife, 26 October 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.
DANTAS, Beatriz G. Taieira. Rio de Janeiro: Funarte, 1976. (Cadernos de folclore, 4).
CASCUDO, Luís da Câmara. Dicionário do folclore brasileiro. 11. ed. São Paulo: Global, 2001. p. 659-660.
RIBEIRO, Hugo Leonardo. Etnomusicologia das traieiras de Sergipe: uma tradição revista.2003. Dissertação (Mestrado em Musica) – Universidade Federal da Bahia. Disponível em: <http://www.bibliotecadigital.ufba.br/tde_arquivos/14/TDE-2005-03-03T142254Z-6/Publico/Dissertacao_S.pdf>. Acesso em: 22 out. 2010.
ROCHA, Jose Maria Tenório. Folguedos e danças de Alagoas: sistematização e classificação. Maceió: Comissão Alagoana de Folclore, 1984
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Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Taieira. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <https://pesquisaescolar.fundaj.gov.br/en/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.