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Crossing the Atlantic (Once Again): The Return of a Tabom Master Drummer to Bahia

Dr Juan Diego Diaz, Department of History, University of Essex

Wednesday 30 November at 5.30 pm

During the first half of the 19th century some eight thousand Africans and creoles resettled from Bahia, Brazil to West Africa. Most were freed slaves who decided to cross the Atlantic in the aftermath of a major slave revolt in Bahia in 1835. In adapting to their new realities they formed communities with distinct Afro-Brazilian identities known today as Tabom in Ghana, Bresiliens in Togo, Agudas in Benin, and Amaros in Nigeria. Although most no longer speak Portuguese and have never set foot in Brazil, they are keen to maintain and strengthen their Brazilian heritage through memories, practices, names, historical sites, and music. In July 2016, Eric Morton, the Tabom master drummer, accomplished a long held desire of most Tabom: visiting Bahia, the land of their ancestors. This presentation follows Eric’s steps in Accra and Bahia in discussing how the Tabom construct a trans-Atlantic identity by engaging musical and religious practices from Brazil, or perceived as Brazilian. It explores the role of memories, beliefs, and musical aesthetics in the process of listening to, learning, and performing Afro-Brazilian styles such as canival samba, Afro-religious music, and capoeira. It particularly follows Eric into Candomblé shrines where he encounters Shango, a Yoruba deity that he and other Tabom worship. Eric’s visit to Bahia is finally framed as the encounter of two worlds that idealize each other in their desire to connect with their ancestry: While Eric incarnates many of the idealized notions of Africa held by Afro-Bahians, Candomblé houses embody many of the Tabom memories of Brazil.

Juan Diego Diaz is a Postdoctoral Visiting Fellow at the University of Essex. He completed his PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of British Columbia (2014) with a dissertation on music and black identities in Bahia, Brazil. He taught at the University of Ghana where he spent a year conducting fieldwork on the music of Afro-Brazilian communities. His research encompasses musics of the black Atlantic with specific focus on Brazil and West Africa. His articles appear in various journals including Ethnomusicology.

This event is free, but tickets must be booked. To book tickets please go to https://diazmeneses.eventbrite.co.uk