We landed into Salvador at 8pm, having left our lodge in the heart of Brazil’s Northern Pantanal at 7am. After the arduous journey we fantasied about climbing into our beds at what is considered the best hotel in Salvador: Villa Bahia. These dreams were dashed when we met our guide Connor (an expat who fell in love with Salvador 23 years ago and never left) who had other ideas! We were swiftly driven to the heart of the Pelourinho, where we were advised to drop our bags and change as we were heading out! Our first stop was Cuco Bistro for dinner. Though only a couple of doors from the hotel, Connor ensured us that this was one of the best restaurants in the city, and it didn’t disappoint! We shared the ‘Bobo de Camaraõ’ – a traditional Bahian dish of shrimps in sauce of coconut milk, manioc, tomato and onions, washed down with an ice cool Bohemia. As we tucked into the delicious food we learnt that dinner was only the beginning, because as if by chance, we’d arrived on a Tuesday – THE night to be in Salvador.
Known as ‘Terça da Benção’ or ‘Blessed Tuesday’, the tradition of the weekly Tuesday parade actually stemmed from the Catholic Church, where the less fortunate were offered food after mass and a gathering of music and dance on the street would follow. Over time, this has grown into a quintessential part of Salvadorian culture. If you’re lucky you might catch Olodum, the city’s most famous drum troupe (better known for featuring alongside Michael Jackson in his music video for ‘They don’t care about us’, which was filmed in Salvador). Other bands of all abilities follow. In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful things about Salvador; music flows through the heart of the city. Often you will find yourself wandering through the cobbled streets only to be drawn towards the sound of percussion music drifting through an open window. In Salvador, music transcends age, religion and wealth and is a key instrument in helping children of poorer backgrounds learn a new skill and stay out of trouble.
The parade finished relatively early (around midnight), and at this stage we thought it was surely bedtime, but again Connor proved us wrong! He took us through winding cobbled streets and into a dance hall where we found Geronimo performing on stage, alternating between singing and playing the trumpet with his band. Geronimo wrote some of Brazil’s most famous songs and his music is the pride of Salvador, but he never found fame himself. We ordered a couple of beers and watched the performance, though watching the crowd dance to the music was as entertaining as the show itself. Salvador is unlike any other city in Brazil. With 90% of the population having descended from African origin, the city is alive with African influenced music, culture, food and religion. By the end of the evening we were no longer wanting our beds, we could have stayed out all night, swept away by the magic of the city, all sense of tiredness lost! Although there’s a lot more to Salvador than the music, it’s definitely a reason in itself to visit this wonderful city!