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Tambor de Crioula

Is an Afro-Brazilian form of expression which combines circle dance, chant and bass drum percussion.

Tambor de Crioula

Article available in: PT-BR ESP

Last update: 19/03/2020

By: Albino Oliveira - Museologist at the Joaquim Nabuco Foundation

A Brazilian Immaterial Cultural Heritage since 2007, Tambor de Crioula is an Afro-Brazilian form of expression which combines circle dance, chant and bass drum percussion.

It was originated in the State of Maranhão, Northeast region of Brazil, with groups located on seacoast and inland cities.

Brought to Brazil between the centuries XVIII and XIX by slaves from several regions of Africa, Tambor de Crioula can be either a form of entertainment or a form of honoring a promise to São Benedito (the black saint) and also to other saints of the traditional Catholicism, as well as to entities in worship places.

The Tambor de Crioula groups are formed by coreiras – name given to the dancers – the players and singers, led by the unceasing rhythm of the drums and by the influence of the chant, resulting in a punga or umbigada.

Punga or umbigada, the main part of the dance, is a choreography movement in which the coreiras touch each other’s belly as an expression of compliment and invitation.

Even though it is similar to other belly bump dances existing in Africa and Brazil, this particular dance is known as Tambor de Crioula only in the State of Maranhão.

There is no specific time for the celebration of Tambor de Crioula, however, it usually occurs during the Carnival period and during the bumba-boi demonstrations, at the end of August.

Tambor de Crioula is presented with three bass drums, hand-played by the men who stand beside the chant group. The members are positioned in a circle and the dance is performed by the women. Each woman enters the circle at a time to do the choreography and reach the culminating point with a punga

The three bass drums are hollow, funnel shaped musical instruments made of wood and covered with leather in one side, fastened with tuning pegs and tied with string or leather.

The chant begins with a soloist who sings words impromptu and repeats them for hours. The melody is based on the words, pronounced with an unique accent, full of regionalism and old expressions which are, many times, of difficult understanding for the spectators.

Formerly, the Tambor de Crioula parties took place spontaneously and the number of participants was uncertain.

Its recognition as an important cultural expression was achieved after the 60’s, which resulted in a better organization of the groups.

Nowadays, the Tambor de Crioula groups must have a national registry number and a head office, which is usually at the house of the bass drum “owner”.

There are about 80 officially registered groups in the capital of Maranhão, São Luís. In 2004, by means of the Municipal Law No. 4.349, the city has established that June 21 is the day of Tambor de Crioula and its members.

Recife, 29 July 2011. 

sources consulted

FERRETTI, Sergio. A punga resiste. Revista de História da Biblioteca Nacional, Rio de Janeiro: n.40, p. 74-79, jan. 2009.

MINISTÉRIO DA CULTURA. Os tambores da ilha. Brasília: IPHAN, 2006. Available at: <;jsessionid=
>. Acessed: 28 jul. 2011.

MINISTÉRIO DA CULTURA. Registro do Tambor de Crioula no Maranhão: Parecer técnico. Available at: <;jsessionid=
>. Acessed: 28 jul. 2011.

TAMBOR de Crioula (Foto neste texto). Available at: <
>. Acessed: 5 ago. 2011.

how to quote this text

Source: OLIVEIRA, Albino. Tambor de Crioula. Pesquisa Escolar Online, Joaquim Nabuco Foundation, Recife. Available at: <>. Accessed: day  month year. Exemple: 6 August 2009.