Signifyin(g) Salvador: Professional Musicians and the Sound of Flexibility in Bahia, Brazil's Popular Music Scenes

By Packman, Jeff | Black Music Research Journal, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Signifyin(g) Salvador: Professional Musicians and the Sound of Flexibility in Bahia, Brazil's Popular Music Scenes

Packman, Jeff, Black Music Research Journal

Over the past twenty-five years, popular music scholarship has benefited from an ever-increasing diversity of approaches. Even so, in-depth studies that address music as not only a creative endeavor but also a form of work are less common. (1) In this article, I investigate flexibility in the career paths, musical knowledge, and localized "Signifyin(g)" practices (Gates 1988, see below) of professional performers in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, an urban center that is culturally rich but economically poor. Rather than focus on media stars, those few performers who have achieved national notoriety and a measure of financial success, I emphasize local working musicians, whom I recognize as members of a flexible workforce in the city's music industries. This focus helps bring to light numerous issues related to the processes and cultural politics of music making among people who are involved in an everyday struggle for survival in a competitive employment market. While the musicians who helped me with my research come from a variety of racial, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds, none of them can be considered economically privileged or even financially secure. On the contrary, they all exemplify the ways in which Bahia's musical workers endeavor to overcome numerous challenges in order to build careers as music makers.

While some of the issues I address will resonate with the practices and experiences of professional musicians in a variety of cultural contexts, other aspects of the musical work processes I discuss reflect the particularities of living from music performance in Salvador. Here, the stakes for professional music making are particularly high and far-reaching owing both to excessive unemployment and the increasing centrality of the culture industries in Salvador's economy. Complicating matters significantly are the region's prominent place in Brazilian music history and common representations of the city as the "heart of Afro Brazil" (see Browning 1995; Carvalho 1999; Dunn 2001 among many others). Never separate from the music itself, complex power relations and the means by which performers address them deeply inform the sounds that are produced as musicians work to live from music.

At least in part because of its mapping as the center of Afro-Brazilian culture, the northeastern state of Bahia and its capital city, Salvador, hold a special place in the Brazilian cultural and musical imaginary (Dunn 2001). Scholarly and popular discussions of samba, for example, refer to Salvador and its surrounding area--an early center of the sugar industry and the importation of African slaves--as home to the earliest antecedents of what would become Brazil's national music and dance (see for example, McGowan and Pessanha 2998; Vianna 2999). This history is acknowledged in the much-celebrated carnival of Brazil's media capital, Rio de Janeiro, in which each participating samba school features a wing of Baianas costumed in the traditional clothing associated with African-descended women from Bahia. Bahia's contribution to the list of greats in Brazilian popular music is also quite substantial and includes notables Dorival Caymmi, Joao Gilberto, Maria Bethania, Gal Costa, Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, and many more.

Research on these musicians and others of similar stature is abundant, yet in most such studies an under-explored point that scholars often take for granted is that achieving star status, and indeed any measure of success as a performer, requires much more than the ability to sing or play an instrument. Rather, the people who succeed (or even survive) as musical workers are those who are able to find and maintain employment with at least some consistency in a very inconsistent profession. Doing this typically entails managing many facets of professional musical life including the performance of musical sounds and various processes of social and professional networking. Making this all the more challenging in Salvador are the volatility of the city's music industries, an overabundance of capable musicians, and a limited number of employment opportunities both in music and in other work sectors.

It is in this context that flexibility becomes especially crucial for the professionals who helped me with my research. For a majority of these musicians, most of whom support themselves by performing in local venues rather than on recordings or tours with nationally known stars, the conditions of musical work are irregular and continually shifting, as are the meanings and implications of playing in a band, being a good musician, and performing a favorite song. For most local working players, as well as the few in my network who perform with established regional and even nationally known acts, flexible notions of "the band," "musicianship," and "the song" are what make living from music in Salvador possible. In addition to examining the implications of this flexibility for Bahian musicians and their audiences, I also want to demonstrate how scholarly attention to flexibility in the practices of local music participants emphasizes music as process or better, as a complex of processes, thereby opening up several new areas of inquiry. For example, in Salvador, people and songs circulate constantly, changing and being changed in a variety of ways in dialogue with numerous societal discourses including those of race and social class. Careful attention to how this happens and to what effect(s)--in Salvador and in other locations--promises to provide better understandings of music culture more broadly, especially in terms of aesthetics, economics, social identities, and politics.

The Signifyin(g) Sonic Practice of Everyday Life in Bahia, Black Atlantic

The flexibility of Bahia's working musicians as a central facet of how they support themselves by performing music is resonant with Michel de Certeau's (1984) writings on resistance. In considering everyday practice among "ordinary" people, de Certeau draws a distinction between tactics, the ways that the less powerful "make do" with structures of domination, and strategies, the means by which power inequalities are created and maintained by the more powerful. In what is perhaps the best-known illustration of his ideas, de Certeau uses walking in New York City as a metaphor for a rather optimistic viewpoint that, despite structures such as buildings, streets, organizational schemes, and other technologies that have disciplined people to move in particular ways within the city, some freedom exists to improvise routes that avoid imposed limitations. Not giving over to a completely utopian view, however, he acknowledges that walkers who move about the city at street level have a very different perspective than those looking down on them from above. While de Certeau's explicit point relates to the difference in perspective gained by being on the ground--an argument for studying the quotidian--another implication is that the ground-level agents he posits might not apprehend the full consequences of their perceived freedom of choice. His mention of looking down from the buildings that line the streets, which stand in for dominating structures around which people tactically move, also suggests an element of surveillance and control despite of the apparent freedom pedestrians might experience.

In this way, De Certeau's formulation seems to presuppose a rather clear division between the empowered and the subjugated even as he asserts a degree of agency for the less powerful. While such a binary is problematic since it does not take into account specific axes of subjugation among the many that are possible, it is useful for beginning to consider the work of musicians in Salvador. As flexible workers, these performers are more often than not underemployed and constantly searching for work opportunities in a very competitive market that is informed by particular discourses of musical value and in which certain people such as venue owners and producers exert a great deal of influence. Nevertheless, it should also be noted that these same musicians can and do at times operate from positions of relative empowerment in certain aspects of their relationships with one another and even some employers. For example, performers with a large following are often able to command higher wages from venues, but they often find themselves accountable for meeting the expectations of those fans, which can limit their freedom to experiment or change musical direction. Thus, there is no single locus or basis of power in their many interactions. Rather, various types of power such as money and prestige are negotiated in several arenas simultaneously. Furthermore, over the course of their careers, many musicians increase (or lose) their influence and agency as they gain (or lose) fame and build reputations. Thus, their positions with respect to power are constantly changing. Finally, as I will illustrate below, the tactics that professional performers employ to resist, overcome, or evade subjugating discourses also carry the risk of reifying them.

Flexibility as a tactic and as a theory of musical practice in Salvador is also evocative of Henry Louis Gates' (1988) notion of Signifyin(g)--creative change in repetition--that he posited as an African-American literary theory. Building on Gates' ideas, I argue that the ways in which musicians in Salvador approach creating difference while performing the "same" music suggest a localized manifestation of Signifyin(g) that is central to their ability to build careers. By asserting Signifyin(g) as an important tactic in the heart of Afro-Brazil, I do not wish to imply a kind of black universalism--that is, the notion that black people everywhere signify and do so in the same way. Rather, Signifyin(g) among Salvador's musicians manifests and can be understood in ways that relate directly--but are not necessarily unique--to their cultural milieu, one in which hybridity has long been asserted.

Specifically, the intertextual and "intermusical" (Monson 1996) creativity in repetition among Salvador's working musicians exemplifies hybridity by bringing together aspects of Signifyin(g) (a hybrid practice itself) and Western European notions of authorship in particular ways and with particular implications. (2) This manner of Signifyin(g), along with the frequently cited trope of Brazilian music's roots in African rhythm and European harmony, links with notions of mesticagem--or racial and cultural mixing--a discourse that has informed ideas about Brazilidade (Brazilianness) for most of the twentieth century (see Freyre [1933] 1964; Marx 1998; Skidmore 1998; Winant 1999, 2001; Goldberg 2002). In this way, many of the discourses that shape the sound of Bahian popular music are deeply intertwined with issues of national identity, colonial histories, and race politics in Brazil. (3)

In particular, Gilberto Freyre's (1933) book Casa Grandee Senzala (published in English as The Masters and the Slaves) marks a crucial moment in terms of how Brazilian national identity is commonly conceptualized with respect to race. In a direct challenge to dominant discourses of the time that characterized racial impurity as a liability, Freyre celebrated Brazil's hybridity and encouraged Brazilians to embrace their miscegenation as an asset and as the basis of "their unique, ethnically mixed tropical civilization" (Skidmore 1993, 191). Moreover, Freyre noted various contributions to Brazilian society made by people of African and indigenous descent, thereby countering the prevailing belief that the hope for Brazil's future was dependent on "white tutelage" (Skidmore 1993, 72).

While Freyre's work did much to alleviate anxiety among Brazilian intellectuals and elites about their multiracial ancestry, it did little to destabilize the socioeconomic hierarchy in which wealth was concentrated among the minority of lighter skinned Brazilians (Skidmore 1993; Hanchard 1994; Marx 1998; Winant 200l). Nor did he upset the existing racial order, which was deeply entrenched in the idealization of branquiamento (whitening)--the hope that through racial mixing, Brazil's population would "improve" over time by becoming more white. Rather, as noted by Howard Winant (200l, 227), Freyre encouraged assimilation even as he sought to demonstrate the value of African and indigenous culture, and his assertions of the gains made by white Brazilian elites through the adoption of select non-European practices only reinforced the centrality of their (European-based) worldview (Skidmore 1993, 192).

Even so, images of Brazil as a nation without racial prejudice have persisted within and outside of the country until the present day (Skidmore 1993; Hanchard 1994; Twine 1998; Marx 1998; Winant 2001; Goldberg 2002). Post-abolition histories that asserted racial tolerance and mixing, the absence of government-legislated segregation and binary definitions of race, and the resurgence of African-derived cultural practices were cited by intellectuals such as Freyre as evidence of Brazil's racial democracy (Marx 1998, 167). Similarly, expressive culture--especially music--is commonly cited by Brazilians as further evidence of harmonious racial and cultural mixing and the absence of race-based prejudice.

While the concept of racial democracy has been challenged by numerous activists and scholars, it has also been repeatedly deployed in service to nationalist projects, as a means to avoid racial conflict, and as a way to maintain the existing social order with a (false) promise of social mobility and an absence of racial barriers (Marx 1998; Winant 2001; Goldberg 2002). (4) Thus, an assertion of merging African and European sensibilities in Bahian musical Signifyin(g) risks participating in discourses that have often been deployed to flatten difference and gloss over social inequality. Nevertheless, I argue that by creating difference in repetition in their own way, Salvador's professional musicians are also able to subtly work around and, at times, challenge oppressive structures--for example, discourses of musical value that constrain the music they perform--and build careers.

By suggesting a localized manifestation of Signifyin(g) that engages with hybrid musical sensibilities, I am also embracing Paul Gilroy's (1993) notion of the black Atlantic as a means to avoid universalizing Gates' ideas and as a means to further counter the incorporation of black musical practices in service to the myth of racial democracy. Howard Winant has rightly argued that Freyre's perspective on race mixing in Brazil, "both denied black difference and inequality" (Winant 2001, 227). Gilroy's formulation, which is embraced by many contemporary Brazilian scholars, asserts the variety and particularity of black cultures and identities throughout the diaspora based on the varied "routes" (rather than unified "roots") of dispersed black peoples. In a decisive step away from essentialism on the one hand and extreme relativism on the other, Gilroy problematizes black nationalism based on rigid notions of authenticity and instead argues that blackness and black cultural practices must be understood in relation to the specific experiences of black-identified people in their particular locale. This move reclaims blackness and difference in spaces where it might otherwise be denied based on, for example, assertions of racial and cultural hybridity. Such a perspective is especially important with respect to Salvador's professional music makers, whose work as producers of expressive culture and, as in many instances, as representatives of Bahia, is deeply entwined with Brazil's complex discourses of racial identification based on the nationalized embrace of hybridity and the myth of racial democracy.

Salvador's (Live) Popular Music Scenes

In order to understand flexibility among Salvador's professional musicians, it is important to develop a general sense of the city as a site for popular music making. To do this, I draw on communications scholar Will Straw's notion of scene, which he defines as "that cultural space in which a range of musical practices coexist, interacting with each other within a variety of processes of differentiation, and according to widely varying trajectories of change and cross-fertilization" (Straw 1991, 373). In Straw's formulation, a key factor in the formation and continuation of scenes is a shared sense of musical genre, which serves as a kind of "terrain" that at once unifies participants in a particular locale and links them with people in other locations who rally around their own understandings of the same genre-defined practice. This is especially salient in Salvador, where genre is a primary concern for musicians, venue operators, and audiences. While it may be productive to think about a singular popular music scene in Salvador based on local notions of "popular music," I suggest that it might actually be more useful to refer to the city's popular music scenes in order to acknowledge its complex of nested or overlapping genre-based formations. In Salvador's popular music scenes, then, specific sites, polarizing personalities, notions of identity, and the like are, as Straw posits, quite important. They are, nevertheless, secondary to ideas about musical genres. Furthermore, in light of the flexibility I have asserted, a crucial point is that, even as different practices influence each other and listeners, musicians, and music move between discursively constructed scenes, these formations are still understood by participants as discrete from one another. Some boundaries are more rigidly enforced than others, yet I would argue that because of these discursive divisions, flexibility through changes and exchanges of people and sounds always has political implications and material consequences for the musicians who work in Salvador's music industries.

Another crucial aspect of professional music making in Salvador is that it is strongly based in and defined by live performance. The number of recording facilities is growing and the importance of recordings in the international music industries--and locally for that matter--is certainly recognized by local performers. However, due to the cost of producing suitable material and the difficulty of earning a profit from CD sales, most of the city's full-time professional musicians find it necessary to concentrate their efforts on presentations in smaller-scale venues such as clubs, restaurants, and theaters. (5)

Recording sessions, on the other hand, are best understood as merely one part of a working musician's employment profile rather than a focus or even a goal. For example, several of the musicians with whom I collaborated for my research do a fair amount of session work as sidemen/women. Much of this studio performing, though, is either for commercial jingles or independent recordings produced by part-time musicians who earn most of their income in other professions. Such sessions provide the sideman/woman with payment for services rendered in the same way that a live date does and generally have no long-term financial ramifications such as royalty income. And, because of the cost of recording, session work tends to be less frequent for most musicians than live performance jobs although some sessions do pay better.

During my fieldwork, most of my collaborators also contributed to recordings made by those ensembles to which they were most dedicated. As such, this work represented more than a one-time session and carried at least some expectation or hope for long-term benefit from the project. Even so, most of these CDs ended up being given away to agents, investors, and potential employers as demo material to book and promote live shows rather than as a primary source of income. In fact, many local performers and producers referred to self-produced CDs as "calling cards." In instances when such product is sold, it is commonly excluded from established distribution networks and retail outlets, and is instead peddled at live events, often at a financial loss. (6)

While these circumstances are not unlike those faced by local musicians in any number of places, many nationally known performers in Brazil--including those with label support--also face a similar situation. Unlike "artists" with recording contracts in, for example, the United States, who earn considerable residual income from publishing, mechanical royalties, and sales revenue, many of Brazil's popular music stars rely heavily on live performances for the bulk of their income. I was given many reasons for this including the thriving pirate recording industry and the lack of infrastructure for tracking, collecting, and paying royalties to artists. (7) Most people with whom I spoke, however, told me that the primary reason for the general reliance on live performance revenue over royalty income is that the price of legally produced commercial CDs is simply too high for a majority of Brazilians to afford, thereby severely limiting sales potential. For example, major label CDs for sale in retail stores can cost anywhere from R$35 to R$35 (between US$7.50 and US$17.50), with prices over R$20 (US$10) being the norm. This represents a considerable investment when one considers that the federally mandated minimum wage in Brazil at the time of my fieldwork was R$360 (US$180) per month. Moreover, minimum wage jobs are in high demand and a large number of people in Salvador work for considerably less. Finally--and this is true even in healthier economies--not every musician who performs on a recording earns money if and when royalties are paid. Rather, a great many of the musicians who contribute to the production of commercial recordings, including those produced by major labels, work strictly as session players and are paid on a per-performance basis. In other words, they need to keep performing in order to keep earning.

A common way for musicians to do this is by working in different genres of music and making contacts in a variety of scenes. Stylistic versatility is a vital aspect of career building for most of the performers in my study for a number of reasons, but a central one that is specific to Salvador is the fact that certain genres of popular music are strongly linked to particular times of the year. Most critical in this temporal aspect of the Bahian music industries are two seasonal peaks, one during Salvador's pre-Lenten carnival and another in June that hinges on festivals in honor of Saint John, Saint Anthony, and Saint Peter. Each of these seasonal peaks features its own kind of music--carnival spotlights a Bahian style known as axe music, and the June celebrations are based around a northeastern genre called forro. (8) As a result of these links between genre and season--and the sheer size of the industries related to each seasonal peak--opportunities to perform the appropriate music are significantly increased during each respective festival and in the months before. In the off-season, seasonal genres become markedly less audible, and work opportunities performing the out-of-season music decrease substantially for all but the most prominent players.

In addition to the performance circuits that are based around the seasonal peaks, most of Salvador's musicians also work in a circuit of local venues that remains more consistent throughout the year. The non-seasonal circuit tends to feature musical genres that are not strongly connected to either Bahian carnival or the June celebrations and are, instead, considered more national and more strongly tied to media centers in southern Brazil. Some key examples of such practices are samba, pop/rock, and urban commercial popular music, generally known as mfisica popular Brasileira (Brazilian popular music; mpb). (9) Without major festivals that attract massive audiences, the non-seasonal circuit does not offer the same earning potential for Salvador-based performers that, for example an appearance at carnival or a June-themed event has. On the other hand, this circuit offers more consistent in-town work for local players.

In order to live from their music, the majority of my collaborators work throughout the year in the non-seasonal circuit. In the months leading up to each seasonal peak, most also seek out work with ensembles that will allow them to make the most out of the increased earning potential during that time of year. Thus, musical flexibility is at a premium among Salvador's musicians, who move between different work circuits that demand particular kinds of music in order to maximize their income with the higher pay associated with seasonal festivals while also relying on the relative consistency of year-round work in local venues as a kind of financial base.

Rethinking the Band: Flexible Ensembles and Musical Nexuses

The centrality of live music making in the careers of professional musicians in Salvador, the different circuits of musical work, the volatile local market, and an overabundance of skilled performers have informed particular approaches to the organization of musical ensembles. Instead of working in groups of equally committed partners--what I would call a true band--most of my collaborators are involved with several groupings that I have theorized as musical nexuses. A musical nexus is a semi-stable entity that typically revolves around one or sometimes several key figures, or nexus principals, who are often musicians, but might also be producers, club owners, or managers. (10) A nexus is best thought of as a grouping of select participants within a music scene who are brought together for the purpose of making music and making money. The people to whom I refer as principals find and create musical work, organize any rehearsals, address business concerns, and take primary responsibility for assembling their collaborators for each job. They do not necessarily work with the same supporting cast for each performance and instead, hire appropriate personnel for each engagement, generally drawing on the pool of performers that make up their nexus. Two key characteristics of any musical nexus, then, are (1) that interchangeability of personnel is very much the norm, and (2) that the musicians who participate, especially as nonprincipals, typically do not have an exclusive commitment to it. More commonly, most work with several nexuses--often in a variety of genre-based scenes--at the same time. Some of these formations can last many years while others come together for only a brief time. Moreover, numerous nexuses are only active during certain seasons even as the relationships that bring participants together continue. As careers progress musicians also develop new nexuses from both old and new contacts and existing nexuses break up or become inactive as relationships between participants change and sometimes end.

It should be mentioned that there are certainly instances when performers have exclusive relationships with a nexus. It has often been my experience, however, that when a performer does work exclusively with one formation, he or she either earns most of his or her income in another profession or the group has achieved a fairly high degree of notoriety and is so busy that opportunities (rather than the desire) to do outside work are limited. Further, in many if not most cases, the committed performer is a very visible member of the ensemble, for example, the lead singer, and is often a nexus principal. Even among very successful and very busy ensembles, I found that most side performers work with other nexuses as their schedules permit.

Most of my collaborators, regardless of whether they have a primary nexus or not, divide their attention between several different professional situations in order to piece together a living, capitalize on seasonal peaks, maintain or create contacts for the future, and add variety to their musical activities. In many cases, however, the single most compelling reason for multiple affiliations is that in general, no single nexus has enough work to fully support the musicians involved. Another important consideration is that schedule conflicts, changes in individual goals or career trajectories, the conditions of a particular job, and the occasional interpersonal dispute lead to temporary substitutions and the permanent replacement of musicians. Nexuses, thus, are vital sites of music making, income generation, and musical flexibility in Salvador.

Stability from Flexibility

The sense of a nexus that I aim to convey is that of an ongoing entity that is able to withstand various types of change through flexibility. Indeed, in what might at first seem contradictory, the apparent instability of personnel in a formation actually helps ensure its longevity. For example, lack of commitment to a particular lineup makes it possible for performances to take place in the absence of a nonprincipal and sometimes even a core member. Further, the flexible organization of nexuses helps guard against projects ending with the loss of any one musician. From the perspective of the people who lend their services to different projects, the musical multitasking facilitated by minimal expectations of exclusivity increases the frequency with which they can work and offers protection against the loss of any one source of income. On the other hand, this approach to ensemble organization also means that very few musicians are regarded as indispensable. This can lead to wage stagnation when, for example, a musician who asks for a fee increase can be easily replaced by another who is willing to work for less money. Over time, some performers are able to establish themselves as less easily substitutable (Towse 1993, 107-108) in a variety of ways--for example, by creating a highly unique identity as a performer or by taking on production responsibilities--but for most, the best protection against instability and the volatility of their jobs is to spread their risk by maintaining numerous nexus affiliations.

In practical terms this all means that the vast majority of working professional players in Salvador (certainly those who participated in my study) not only work with different musicians, in different formations, performing different kinds of music over the course of their careers, but also that they perform entirely different styles of music with completely different personnel within very short spans of time. An important result of this is that any one nexus might sound different on a given night as a result of the substitution, addition, or elimination of one or more performers. Finally, even when musicians play the same songs in several of their nexuses--or even in the same nexus with slightly different personnel--they are often called on to perform the "same music" in different ways. Doing this requires that working musicians know their repertoire so well that they can, with minimal notice, adapt how they perform it to suit each situation.

Flexible Musical Knowledge

This ability to know and perform music with different people in different ways--what I am calling flexible musical knowledge--while not unique to Salvador, is at a premium there. In addition to being competent in wide array of musical styles, depending on where and with whom they perform, musicians who work regularly in the Salvador scenes are notable for their ability to adjust how they render their part in any composition in relation to performance conditions that can vary greatly. Beyond key changes to accommodate different vocalists, working players commonly alter various melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic aspects of the music in their repertoire. Some changes are implemented in an effort to highlight the particular style of the project, a point to which I will return. In a great many instances, though, adjustments are a matter of practicality, often in relation to what version of the ensemble is present at a performance.

Samba, in particular that played by small ensembles rather than carnival samba schools, is an excellent example of this flexibility. (11) Historically community based, this practice in its various forms has a long tradition of being performed by whomever is present and by whatever means are available. This custom is maintained today in Bahia, where I commonly saw samba groups work in a variety of configurations, often without regular performers, with substitutes, or with additional guest musicians.

In many of these instances, the performers present adapted how and what they played to suit the ensemble at hand. For example, in the absence of a bass player--a very common circumstance--one of the harmonic instrumentalists could be expected to take on a bass function by including more lower register melodies as a way to suggest a bass line. (12) This compensation was most commonly made by a violao (nylon-string guitar) player, but I also heard it being done by keyboardists on several occasions. Conversely, in the presence of several harmonic instruments (multiple guitars as well as different combinations of violao, cavaquinho, bandolim, and the occasional keyboard are typical) one of the redundant musicians could generally be expected to emphasize single line melodies in the upper registers while others looked to voice their chord accompaniment in complementary ways. (13) Similar approaches could also be expected in the percussion section depending on the type and number of performers present. For example, drum set players often simplified their rhythmic patterns when working with hand percussionists. Conversely, in the absence of auxiliary percussion, drummers mimicked percussion parts to fill out the groove.

Such tailoring of parts to suit the ensemble at hand was an aspect of professional music making that I discussed frequently with my principal collaborator and percussion teacher Jorge Farofa. (14) Farofa self-identifies as black and as a member of the "popular" classes. He has a high-school education and is primarily a self-taught musician although he has done some formal study of Cuban percussion. He has been a well-respected working percussionist in Salvador for over fifteen years--a career path he pursued after working at several minimum wage jobs in his late teens. His career longevity in music is in many ways the result of his flexibility and his success in performing with numerous nexuses. Understandably, he and many other professionals with whom I spoke emphasized the importance of this kind of adaptability, what they called "having good ears." They also used it as a gauge of musical competence when discussing the work of their colleagues or competition. Indeed, not all of the performers who work in Salvador have such skill, and there were several instances in which Farofa criticized other musicians with whom he worked for not playing in a way that suited the ensemble. Conversely, he praised those performers who, in his view, could play the right parts and make the group sound its best.

Flexibility Through Stability

Just as a degree of organizational stability is made possible through flexibility, flexible musical knowledge is also, perhaps paradoxically, made possible through fixity Several musicians, including Farofa, noted to me that their ability to perform with different groups and adapt their playing accordingly was facilitated by the sharing of repertoire among the ensembles with which they performed. While many expressed frustration about playing what are ostensibly the same songs with such frequency, most also acknowledged that, if faced with a significantly more diverse repertoire, their ability to maintain multiple work situations and thus their ability to live from their music would be negatively affected. This is not to say that Salvador's musicians do not know a tremendous number of tunes. To be sure, most do. But the sharing of a core repertoire between different ensembles makes their work easier in several ways. It reduces the time necessary to prepare for a performance because in new situations, and those in which extensive arrangement changes will be worked out in rehearsals, performers rarely have to start from scratch. Furthermore, for certain jobs known locally as "gigs" no rehearsals are held before the performance as a way to maximize profit by eliminating the cost of a rehearsal studio. (15) Without a broad and flexible knowledge of core repertoire, such work would not be possible since tunes are commonly called on the bandstand, and performers are expected to render them with minimal discussion. Additionally, charts are not typically used in either rehearsed or unrehearsed situations and, according to the musicians with whom I spoke, the ability to read music is both fairly rare and rarely expected. Thus, I would suggest that successful performers must possess a vast repertoire of music and a thorough knowledge of each tune, their instruments, and stylistic conventions so that they are able to change various aspects of any song as dictated by any work situation.

This implies that the performance of core repertoire in different contexts, while certainly making musical multitasking more possible, is not as simple as mechanically reproducing a codified musical work. (16) Moreover, as an indication of a different understanding of what constitutes a piece of music, I rarely if ever heard the Portuguese term for song, cancao, used. More commonly, what might be called songs or tunes in a North American context were referred to as musica (music). The ways that musica is reproduced in the Salvador scenes highlight several layers of flexibility including a localized manifestation of Signifyin(g) and an intermusical notion of popular music that are central to success as a musical performer there.

Flexible Music and Signifyin(g) Practice in Salvador

The Signifyin(g) practice of musicians working in the Salvador scenes is well-exemplified in their treatment of beloved music. After attending numerous performances and rehearsals, I was struck by the frequency with which I seemed to be hearing the "same" songs presented by different artists, in different venues, and especially in different styles. The number of "hits" included in a set varied depending on the type of performance. (17) Yet nearly all of the musical events that I attended--including shows by performers and even songwriters working to create distinct artistic personae--featured at least one, and more commonly several well-known songs associated with the "big names" of Brazilian music.

When asked about this, several of my collaborators impressed on me that Bahian audiences in most contexts expect to hear familiar songs to which they can sing along. They added that performing too much unfamiliar material commonly leads to disinterested audiences and failed presentations. In other words, people who attend musical events in Salvador demand music that facilitates their vocal participation, and this expectation has important implications for the music that is performed. For this reason, I view audience participation as an important part of the aesthetics that inform Bahian popular music performance. (18)

As I pursued this idea further, I noticed that in most cases, Salvador's musicians did not necessarily strive to copy existing versions of the songs that they performed. In fact, the term "cover," which in the United States refers to performing someone else's music, is reserved for those (relatively few) music makers who imitate other artists in a manner that might be called a tribute act in North America. In Salvador, it is more common that performers reinterpret beloved music rather than reproduce it, a point that was reiterated by many different musicians. They referred to this process of interpretation in a number of ways including creating releituras (rereadings). For a working player in Bahia, this process of reinterpreting well-known songs is especially important because it serves as a way to distinguish oneself in a competitive scene by expressing a unique creative vision while at the same time satisfying audience demand for familiarity.

In addition to being very much the norm in Salvador's local scenes, this approach is common in other parts of Brazil. Even among the nation's best-known popular music composers--for example, Antonio Carlos Jobim--it is not unusual to find more than one version of their compositions not only on live recordings, but also on studio releases and projects with different ensemble configurations. Perhaps more significantly, Brazilian popular music also enjoys a long history of singers such as Gal Costa and Elis Regina, who build very successful careers singing and indeed, rereading, "other people's" music. That this is a common and accepted, or better, a valued practice is suggested by the fact that these singers are categorized in a particular way, as interpretes (interpreters). Moreover, the vast majority of performances that I saw in Salvador--by interpretes, bar musicians, ensembles performing at carnival or during the June celebrations, and singer-songwriters--not only included several well-known compositions, but they were personalized by the performer according to the context of the presentation.

The predominance of performances conceived in this way suggests a particular understanding of the interpretation of musical works. In addition to addressing a tension between difference and familiarity, the rereadings that I heard being created in Salvador struck me as more than the product of one person bringing his or her musical sensibility to bear on an existing composition. Rather, numerous actions and interactions between many people contribute to the sound and meanings of each interpretation. Owing to the complexity and politics of these interactions along with Bahia's cultural history and the lasting power of discourses of mesticagem in Brazil, I also suggest that these processes of musical participation are evocative of a particular mix of respect for authorship on one hand and Signifyin(g) on the other. Attention to the implications for music making in this manner can help expose the tensions of Salvador's present as both an important location in the African diaspora--where African-derived culture is foregrounded and often celebrated--and a city that bears strong traces of its European colonial past.

Briefly, Signifyin(g) can be understood as repetition with what African-American literary theorist Gates calls "signal difference" (1988, 51). Using the figure of the trickster, exemplified by Esu-Elegbara in Yoruba myth (Exu in Brazil) and the related Signifying Monkey of narrative poems from the United States, Gates describes "a complex attitude toward domination, which can be transcended in and through language" (1988, 77). He notes this attitude in numerous forms of black expressive culture and cites as exemplary the story of the Signifying Monkey himself, who tricks the Lion, the self-proclaimed "King of the Jungle," into a confrontation with the physically stronger Elephant over alleged insults. When the Lion is defeated in the ensuing altercation, his status as king is undermined. He has fallen victim to his literal interpretation of the Monkey's (figurative) speech--a mistake he makes again when he seeks to avenge his deception by the Monkey, who then tricks him again and escapes to signify another day. Building on Gates' work, several scholars such as John Murphy (1990), Gary Tomlinson (1991), Robert Walser (1993), Tricia Rose (1994), Samuel Floyd (1995), Ingrid Monson (1996), and Guthrie Ramsey (2003) have applied this idea to a variety of Afro-diasporic music practices, especially jazz. This scholarship has emphasized how differentiated repetition--for example, form alterations, new melodies, and improvised solos in existing tunes--can divert attention away from an inscribed version of a piece of music and the power of its originating author toward the performance at hand and the interpretive skills of the performer.

That my collaborators in Salvador commonly personalize material composed, recorded, and brought to public attention by other artists while living and working in the discursive center of Afro-Brazilian culture suggests the appropriateness of Signifyin(g) with respect to their creative output. Nevertheless, I want to suggest a slight reworking of Gates' concept in order to account for the collective processes of music making in the context of musical nexuses and especially the profound impact of European colonial legacies that place such a premium on authorship--what communications scholar Jason Toynbee (2000, 29) has called "the cult of the author."

Authors and Interpreters in Bahia

Despite strong evidence for the applicability of Signifyin(g) to the reinterpretation of music in Salvador, my experiences at live music events suggest that authors and notions of authorship still hold important places in Bahian musical values. For example, in spite of extensive rearranging, it was very common for musicians to introduce a song's composer or best-known interpreters--that is, their prior authors--before presenting their own rereading. Even in the absence of such an announcement, it was striking to me the frequency with which Bahian friends told me the names of artists most strongly associated with the music being played at performances we attended. My sense is that many members of Salvador's audiences are quite aware of the people who might be considered the authors of much of the popular music repertoire. I would further argue that this extensive knowledge on the part of listeners along with the common on-stage acknowledgments of composers and prior versions of songs serves to maintain at least some of the power and presence of past authors and their works even in the face of extensive arrangement changes.

This is a key point that I believe distinguishes differentiated repetition in Salvador from that in many other contexts. Indeed, most scholars who have written about Signifyin(g) in other locations tend to cast it as a means of defying existing power, including that of composers, inscribed works, and originating artists. To be sure, the presentation of clever and creative rereadings of known music by Salvador's professional players highlights their abilities and the materiality of their performances in a manner resonant with applications of Signifyin(g) to the study of other musics. But in Salvador, prior authors are not necessarily overshadowed, nor is the concept of authorship rendered irrelevant. Rather, authorial presence is acknowledged and the (often markedly different) rearrangement frequently understood as a compliment to the prior authors' accomplishments even as the performers are appreciated for their own creative, indeed, authorial contributions.

Tricia Rose (1994) explicitly posits a combination of authorship as understood by literate societies and Signifyin(g) practices, which she links to orality, in rap music. Central to her argument is that, in assembling samples and creating personalized rhymes, rappers effectively become authors, who are inextricably linked to their musical expressions. An important consideration in her analysis, however, is that with her example of one artist reinterpreting the composition of another, Rose asserts a displacement of the prior author. She distinguishes this from silencing the first artist, but also notes "a moment of symbolic domination" and a "symbolic victory" for the second performer (Rose 1994, 87). Her interpretation, while notable for pointing to instances in which prior authors and authorship remain important in North American Signifyin(g) practices, ultimately gives over to more common understandings that emphasize overshadowing.

In other studies that examine Signifyin(g) as a way to recognize rather than obfuscate prior music and musicians through differentiated repetition, the emphasis is on the use of musical figures borrowed from other performers and quoted in the context of a jazz improvisation by a soloist. As John Murphy (1990), Paul Berliner (1994), and Ingrid Monson (1996) note, these allusions become part of a soloist's improvisational vocabulary and serve to link him or her to other artists as well as listeners who are knowledgeable enough to hear and understand the reference. Moreover, as Murphy points out, such references are not always made in performances, nor are they regarded as "fixed" elements of the music in question.

In Salvador, performers borrow and rework both fragments and complete pieces of music from other artists. While this suggests similarities to Signifyin(g) in jazz and rap, several points are worth noting. First, there is little or no improvisation in the rereading of songs in Salvador. The parts are fixed; more often than not they are worked out through extensive rehearsal and memorized. I rarely saw charts handed out and only a few of my collaborators jotted notes to help them remember their parts. Perhaps most importantly, even with extensive reworking, the songs are generally recognizable to a majority of the audience. Repertoires tend to emphasize very well-known songs rather than those that might be known by only the most informed listeners. Melodies and lyrics are commonly left intact, with most of the more extensive changes being made in the parts played by accompanying musicians (as opposed to soloists). (19) The audible result of this can be heard on the many occasions when audiences sing along with live performances--even when extensive arrangement changes have been made. In this way, listeners (audience members and musicians alike) seem to take pleasure in the differences imparted to broadly shared and widely accessible sounds. I would suggest that this serves to reinforce the presence of and affection for past authors and prior versions of songs even when performers rework them and in effect, establish themselves as coauthors. This stands in sharp contrast to frequently cited examples of musical Signifyin(g) in jazz, especially the rearrangement of Broadway tunes, about which Monson notes that musicians and listeners commonly assert the superiority of the new versions over the older compositions (1996). Even in instances when musicians and listeners might be hesitant to assert this kind of superiority--for example in the presentation of a composition by a canonic jazz artist--the practice of extended improvisation obscures the reference to a much greater degree than is typically the case in Bahia, where the identity of the song is plainly clear for much, if not all of its performance.

This suggests that particular notions of both authorship and Signifyin(g) inform popular music performances in Salvador. On one hand, the frequent rearrangement of well-known material expresses a departure from music traditions in which scores or recordings serve as (nearly) absolute references and, therefore, evidence of authorial power. (20) On the other hand, extensive audience knowledge of repertoire, the custom of openly acknowledging authors and prior works, and meticulous preplanning of rearrangements also deviates from theories of Signifyin(g) as applied to more improvisational practices, for example jazz, in which the song is understood to happen in the moment of performance (Finnegan 1986), in which the prior work and author is argued to be overshadowed (Monson 1996), or in which the reference is commonly recognizable by only the most knowledgeable listeners (Murphy 1990, Berliner 1994, Monson 1996).

Multiple Signifyin(g)s and Malicia

This tension between authorship and (re)authorship points to another key aspect of Gates' notion that is often undertheorized--that Signifyin(g) operates on multiple levels at once and can be understood in various and sometimes contradictory ways (Radano 2003, 37). On one level, prior knowledge of a song serves as a basis of comparison for a performer's reinterpretation. While there were certainly instances during my fieldwork when other listeners did not comment on the rearrangements that we heard, details of musical rereadings were pointed out to me by fellow audience members at numerous presentations. Such recognition, I would argue, helped establish the performer as an artist--that is as an interprete rather than an imitator--based on their novel take on the music. Additionally, the musicians who collaborated in my study were very directed in their efforts to lend personal touches to the music in their repertoire. In addition to using terms such as rereading, musicians commonly spoke of putting their "cara" (face) on the music or giving it "novas roupagens" (new clothes). In this context, I suggest that the knowledge of prior authors and their music both allows performers to express their own musical creativity and provides listeners with a basis from which to appreciate it. That is, much of the pleasure in participating in popular music in Salvador lies at the intersection of the familiar and the new. (21)

While the Signifyin(g) practices heard in the rereading of popular music in Salvador might be interpreted in a way that supports the notion of overshadowing or challenging the authority of prior works and authors, I believe that a more nuanced understanding is possible, especially since these references are so openly acknowledged. In his groundbreaking work, Gates himself points to two types of Signifyin(g)--what he calls motivated and unmotivated--and although he does emphasize the practice's potential for transgression, he does not limit it as such. Instead, he distinguishes motivated Signifyin(g) as mocking and defiant of authority from what he calls unmotivated Signifyin(g) that serves as an act of homage and a reflection of influence. While this second type of differentiated repetition--exemplified by a melodic quote in a jazz solo or a sample in a rap composition--still highlights the skills of the performer and the performance at hand, it also recognizes their knowledge and admiration of a prior work and its originator (see Murphy 1990).

Importantly, in theorizing different types of Signifyin(g), Gates allows for the possibility of contradictory understandings of the same gesture. This presents a potential problem for trying to interpret musical (or any) Signifyin(g) practice. Yet I believe that this uncertainty is key to understanding better how musicians reinterpret well-known music in Salvador. In the context of complex networks of musicians and diverse audiences, the potential for multiple and contradictory meanings is tremendous. Complicating this further is the fact that participants in any musical event are likely to have numerous prior references to any one song by virtue of the frequency with which so much of the "same" music is recorded and performed by different artists. Thus "the work" that is signified on is not necessarily clear even if it is specified. In addition, audiences can never be sure of the performers' attitudes toward the prior works and authors, nor can they truly know their intent. Finally, within the context of a nexus, different participants might engage with the same piece in contradictory ways. Through musical Signifyin(g), then, a rereading that might at first seem adulatory could in fact be a statement of ridicule by one or more members of an ensemble--and vice versa. And my experience is that performers actively play with this uncertainty by, for example, rereading unlikely tunes in unexpected ways.

Such embracing of uncertainty is reminiscent of another characteristic of many Brazilian expressive practices, malicia, which refers to cunning, slyness, and the ability to live by one's wits. Anthropologist Lowell Lewis (1992) posits malicia as a central tenet of capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian musical martial art. To explain, he relates a story of a capoeira teacher who extends his hand to greet a new student. When the student reaches out to shake hands, the master kicks the student in a move known as a "blessing." The kick is greeted by the more experienced students in the class with laughter and is offered as a lesson for the new student not to trust anyone too much and to never let down his guard. A person with malicia, is thus not only cunning, but she or he is also not easily deceived by the treachery of others.

Tamara Livingston-Isenhour and Thomas Garcia (2005) also discuss malicia in relation to a Brazilian musical practice known as choro. According to these ethnomusicologists, choro musicians commonly revel in trying to trick their colleagues with unexpected harmonic modulations. Moreover, they note that audiences embrace those performers who demonstrate enough malicia to maintain their composure during these attempts by successfully adapting to the sudden change with no audible or visible difficulty. Livingston-Isenhour and Garcia, along with ethnomusicologist Lisa Shaw, also note that malicia (also called malandragem) informs the national music and dance of Brazil, samba. In her analysis of samba lyrics, Shaw (1999) demonstrates how a key character in the mythology of samba is the malandro, a scheming ladies' man, whose malicia is central to his pleasure seeking and avoidance of work.

Similarly, when discussing various forms of Brazilian music with friends (both musicians and not) in Salvador, malicia was often mentioned. Like Lewis and the neophyte capoeira student he discusses, I was also told by Bahian friends on numerous occasions never to trust anyone in Salvador too much. (22) I suggest, then, that rereading or Signifyin(g) in commercial popular music practice in Salvador, like so much of Brazilian expressive culture that is informed by malicia, always contains the possibility for trickery and deception.

Signifyin(g), Musical Values, and Cultural Politics

Following Toynbee's notion of the cult of authorship, I have suggested that the importance placed on authors and authorship in Salvador is a legacy of European colonialism. (23) Traces of Eurocentrism are evident in numerous other aspects of Brazilian culture as well. Indeed, many scholars such as Brazilian ethnomusicologist Martha de Ulhoa Carvalho (1995), Jefferson Bacelar (1999), and American historian Kim Butler (1998) have noted the elevation of ideas and practices associated with Europe as measures of (high) culture in Brazil. (24) As this applies to musical values in Salvador, like de Ulhoa Carvalho, who has written about Brazilian musical values in a broad sense, I noticed a prevalent tendency in Salvador to assert the superiority of musical practices and pieces that exhibited harmonic complexity, intricate arrangements, and so-called poetic texts--traits that evoke "[Western] classical erudition" (de Ulhoa Carvalho 1995, 164). On the other hand, in my many conversations with musicians and listeners alike, music that was characterized as percussion-oriented, repetitious, or textually or harmonically simplistic--and not legitimized on the basis of its "folk authenticity" (de Ulhoa Carvalho 2995, 164)--was regularly dismissed as inferior or compartmentalized as good for carnival and parties, but not worth buying or listening to at home. Such claims of either avoiding this kind of "inferior music" altogether or consuming it only at sanctioned moments were especially common among members of the middle and upper classes, who, as noted by Bacelar (1999), have historically identified strongly with European culture as an expression of their class identities.

When I spoke with people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, in contrast, I noticed more willingness to self-associate with music that was typically dismissed among the more affluent. Even so, I was somewhat surprised that a great many of these less-wealthy and usually less-educated Bahians still cited as exemplary of "good music" the same musical practices, especially mpb, that were more widely valued by members of the upper classes. While members of the working classes were often, although not always, less hesitant to voice unqualified enjoyment of music such as axe that might be viewed as banal, declasse, and in some cases, "too African," they also conceded with striking frequency that this music was somehow inferior to those styles that emphasized harmonic complexity and poetry over danceable percussive grooves and playful or "light" lyrics. (25) Such Eurocentrism in musical practice is deeply resonant with numerous critiques of Brazilian cultural politics (e.g., Skidmore 1993; Hanchard 1994; Marx 1998; Hasenbalg 1999; Hasenbalg and do Valle Silva 1999; Winant 2001; Goldberg 2002), which note the lingering effects and naturalization of branquiamento despite a national discourse that avows the benefits of racial and cultural mixing and asserts racial democracy. Moreover, while there were exceptions, the majority of my conversations about musical values in Salvador tended to support David Theo Goldberg's assertions about the "modern state" that "[r]ace becomes not so much reduced to class as rearticulated through it" (Goldberg 2002, 206) and that "whiteness remains unquestioned as the arbiter of value, the norm of acceptability, quality, and the standard of merit" (Goldberg 2002, 223). In light of this, I suggest that in addition to reconceptualizing authorial power, Signifyin(g) in Salvador can also provide performers of various racial identities working in a variety of musics with a means of empowerment and a possibility for problematizing broadly held Eurocentric notions of musical and, indeed, cultural value.

A common practice among Salvador's musicians that is useful for beginning to consider such negotiations of power is the adaptation of music across very distinct genres in order to better suit particular performance contexts. I frequently heard compositions originally recorded in a variety of styles transformed into the style of axe music to be performed during Carnival. Conversely, I heard numerous energetic dance songs from the pre-Lenten festival slowed down for presentation in an intimate club space or to accompany close couple dancing. In a particularly notable example from the period of my fieldwork, one piece of music titled "Coracao" (Heart) was released on CD by several regional forro bands, a Bahian ballad singer, and a Bahian axe band just before Carnival 2005. The axe version was selected as the best new release of Carnival, and the song was performed by countless other bands during the event. Following this success, I heard it performed repeatedly in any number of styles by various musicians working in non-seasonal venues in Salvador. The song was then recorded yet again by a nationally known forro artist prior to the June 2005 celebrations and was included in the repertoires of most of the ensembles that I heard performing at June festival events that year.

Musicologist Samuel Floyd leaves little doubt that such genre crossing can be understood as Signifyin(g), noting that, "genres signify on other genres" (Floyd 1995, 95). With this in mind, when a Bahian musician takes a song known in one style and performs it as another, there is room for numerous interpretations. For example, a bossa nova reinterpreted as arrocha (a new dance music considered by many to be simplistic, risque, and declasse), might be read as a comment on the perceived pretentiousness of bossa nova--a music commonly revered for its sophistication and often conflated with middle- and upper-class tastes (Behague 1973, 1980; Carvalho 1995; Reily 1996; Treece 1997). On the other hand, such a move might be an effort to reclaim arrocha by demonstrating that it does not have to be lowbrow, as it is so commonly demeaned. Or it could an appropriation of bossa nova for the povo, the masses, who I was commonly told (despite my many experiences to the contrary) do not want "good music." (26) By the same token, Signifyin(g) on genres might also be a sincere homage to either style or an author or interpreter of the music being adapted. Even in light of these many possible interpretations, as suggested in the work of scholars such as Gates, Floyd, Walser, Ramsey, and Monson, the process of repeating with a difference draws attention to the materiality of the performance. Following them, I suggest that this empowers the performer to speak out and provides him or her with the possibility to defy the power of the original work, the cult of the author, and dominant societal discourse on musical values.

What I am suggesting is a hybrid conceptualization of music making that is strongly informed by both Afro-diasporic modes of performance and Western notions of authorship. In making this assertion, I want to be careful to avoid lapsing into common appropriations of hybridity exemplified by the discourse of mesticagem, which is often deployed in service to Brazil's persistent "myth of racial democracy" through the flattening of difference between people and practices. Instead, the rereading of music by professional musicians in Salvador creates a tension, albeit a productive one, between Signifyin(g) and authorship as both work together to inform popular music performance. References to authors and originals in the context of constant musical adaptation and malicia mean uncertainty of meaning and possibility of defiance in the guise of reverence and respect in the context of parody and vice versa.

The Sounds and Skills of Flexibility

Despite musical Signifyin(g)'s potential to empower performers, it should be emphasized that it also demands particular skills and carries certain risks. Just as composing new musical works demands specific cultivated abilities, so too does creating and performing effective rereadings of existing material. The demands of doing this are magnified further in the context of the musical multitasking that is central to success as a working player. Specifically, musicians who work with several different nexuses are not only called upon to create new versions of known music with great frequency, but they are often obliged to create and perform several variations of the "same" music with different groups of musicians under differing circumstances. Even so, this challenge also creates opportunities to showcase the performers' distinct musical sensibilities, which in turn can help them build careers.

To illustrate this, and the hybrid, multifaceted processes of Signifyin(g) in Salvador, I now turn to a particular piece of music, a Dorival Caymmi composition titled "Pescaria (Canoeiro)." This music is especially useful for illustrating how performers manage multiple versions of well-known tunes, how they signify on them and to what effect, and finally, how the circulation of musicians and music between nexuses informs musical sound. In other words, "Pescaria" in many ways exemplifies the sound and practice of flexibility in Salvador's popular music scenes.

In addition to being performed frequently by several of my collaborators, "Pescaria" has been recorded by its composer, Caymmi, along with several nationally known artists including Leila Pinheiro and Gal Costa. Although I was told that Costa's recording is likely the most widely known version, I commonly heard it introduced as a Caymmi tune. Therefore, while I will discuss aspects of several versions of this music to illustrate intermusicality and Signifyin(g) in the work of my collaborators, I will begin by discussing Caymmi's recording ([1954] 2004), a transcription of which is presented in Examples 1, 2, and 3. (27) A comparison of three versions is shown in Table 1.

Upon first listening, Caymmi's "Pescaria" seems to be a relatively simple arrangement for voice and seven-string violao. The accompaniment is built on a bass line that alternates between the root and fifth of each chord. Caymmi plucks the treble strings with his fingers between each bass note that he plays with his thumb (Example 1). To this basic pattern, he adds the occasional rhythmic embellishment in the upper voices.

The form of the song is AABA' and the A section, shown in Example 2, consists of four phrases. This portion of the song strongly suggests the key of G. The harmonic background of the first, second, and fourth phrases of the A section is a G chord played in the manner discussed above. In the second bar of the first phrase, Caymmi moves to a C chord for the full measure.

The third phrase of the A section is also played over a C chord. Instead of moving to D (V in the key of G) to end the phrase, Caymmi concludes it with an F, the IV/IV. This moment is also marked with a melodic peak on the highest note of the song, an a. This climax occurs on an upbeat sixteenth note and is held through the first beat of the next bar for greater emphasis.

The B section shown in Example 3 is a "prayer interlude," which Caymmi signals with a pause in his alternating bass line. This part of the song is also distinguished by the "prayer" lyrics, "louvado seja Deus, o meu pai" ("praise the Lord, my Father"). (28) These words are sung in two phrases characterized by longer note durations and rubato tempo. The relaxed time feel and the inclusion of full arpeggios act to reinforce the section's prayer-like quality. The interlude begins with the slow unfolding of a G9 chord, which is sustained throughout the first melodic phrase. The second phrase begins on a C chord, which moves to D and resolves to G, setting up the return to the final A section.




A reread version of "Pescaria" was in the repertoire of one of the ensembles that helped me a great deal with my fieldwork and with which percussionist Farofa worked regularly. This group, called Banda Patua, exemplifies a musical nexus in that it was formed by a local music producer in collaboration with Salvador's city tourism agency as a way to showcase the work of a local singer and various types of Bahian music. Farofa was contacted to work with the group and also to help complete the ensemble by drawing on his extensive network of local professional players. Over the course of my research, I saw several permanent personnel changes in the group and numerous instances when one or more musicians missed a performance because of a prior commitment to another nexus. The core members, including Farofa, singer Josehr Santos, musical director Luciano Caroso, and the group's management, however, remained stable for the entire period of my research from 2003 through 2005.

Patua's concept is to showcase various musical practices associated with Bahia with an emphasis on popular music forms but also including those that might be considered "folk." The group's repertoire also contains numerous songs about Bahia and music composed or performed by nationally known Bahian musicians. During my fieldwork, Patua worked primarily at non-seasonal venues but also made repertoire adjustments in an effort to work during Carnival in 2005. While this attempt failed--they were unable to book a job during the event--earlier incarnations of the group did perform at the pre-Lenten seasonal peak in previous years. As suggested by my discussion of rereading well-known music, the musicians of Patua rework extensively all of the pieces in their repertoire as a way to emphasize their own sound and musical identity. Their approach to "Pescaria" exemplifies this well.

As a nexus that is fairly stable in terms of membership, Patua rehearsed regularly for much of the two years I spent in Salvador. "Pescaria" was included in the repertoire of the group from early on, and was, as I learned later, held over from a previous version of the ensemble. Because the majority of the musicians in the group do not read music, charts were never provided when new songs were added. Several of Patua's players did, however, write their own notes to help remember the particularities of each arrangement. Since most of the music in the repertoire is well known to all of the performers in the nexus, recordings of prior versions of songs were not necessarily circulated before rehearsals either. More typically, the musical director would play a recording of one version of the song during rehearsal to spark the memories of the musicians. The group would then begin to work through the song together, adding new touches in a fairly democratic manner and rarely referring to the recording to verify how it was performed in prior versions. Thus, the process was based primarily on the collective memories of the musicians rather than on a definitive recorded version or score. The final arrangement was arrived at in a fairly collaborative way although musical director Luciano, a university-trained composer, had final say. Once the group had agreed on an arrangement and could perform it without major errors, Luciano then recorded the song to mini disc for future reference and in case the ensemble needed to use a substitute performer. Over time, details of arrangements conceived in this manner were subject to change, but the overall scheme generally stayed fairly close to this collective arrangement. I witnessed numerous songs reread by the group in this manner, including "Pescaria."

In contrast to Caymmi's recording of the song, which begins with his driving violao pattern, Banda Patua's arrangement begins with a rubato duet of voice and violao. This is conceptually reminiscent of another, more obscure version of the song by Leila Pinheiro, which begins with a harmonically elaborated version of the prayer interlude. Banda Patua, however, omits the prayer section entirely and instead introduces "Pescaria" with one verse of another Caymmi song, "Suite do Pescador." Thus, the presence of composer Caymmi is affirmed in the context of their extensive rearrangement. (29) Patua's instrumentation consists of electric guitar, bass, violao, percussion, drum set, accordion, and flute. The group's use of accordion, in combination with the hand percussion rhythms, not only contrasts with Caymmi's voice and violao performance but also strongly references a rural northeastern Brazilian music known as baiao. The rhythmic pattern played on the drum set, however, suggests a more hybrid groove.

First, the drummer does not perform a strict baiao rhythm, which consists of the one-bar rhythmic pattern shown in Example 4. Rather, he creates a half-time feel by executing a baiao rhythm with his kick drum on every other measure instead of continuously, as is more common. On the second measure of his four-bar phrase, the drummer plays a snare drum accent on beat two. Most significantly, he adds bass drum and floor tom accents on the first two sixteenth notes of both beats in every fourth measure (Ex. 5). These hits mimic the rhythm of an alfaia, which is the bass drum used in maracatu, an Afro-Brazilian carnival music and dance from the northeastern state of Pernambucco. (30)

As a feature of another region's carnival, maracatu is not especially common in Salvador, although most of the musicians I know are familiar with it. Its inclusion in Patua's arrangement, then, while somewhat unexpected, did not initially strike me as especially remarkable. Only later did I realize how pertinent Patua's use of maracatu in "Pescaria" was to my research. I was first made aware of this aspect of their arrangement by the group's drummer, Pastel (Paulo Reis), when I asked him about his approach to the song. Some time after our conversation, I remembered that one of the other bands with which he works frequently is headed by a singer who specializes in "northeastern" music including maracatu. My first assumption, then, was that the work he does with this singer influenced how he approaches "Pescaria" with Banda Patua.

This initial idea was clarified on a return trip to Salvador when I gave a copy of this article, then a dissertation chapter, to Patua musical director Luciano. After reading it, he elaborated several points that added more depth to my understanding of the impact of nexuses in the processes of musical Signifyin(g). Luciano explained to me that Pastel is typically open to taking directions in the context of the various ensembles in which he works and he praised his flexibility. But the musical director credited a percussionist from an earlier incarnation of the group for suggesting the reference to maracatu in "Pescaria." This musician was particularly interested in the music of Pernambucco and had advocated for its merging with what had been a more conventional baiao. Upon joining Patua, current drummer Pastel was willing and able to implement this aspect of the arrangement with ease thanks to his flexible musical knowledge and his experience working with other ensembles. The implication is that, to varying degrees, the sound of any nexus is informed not only by its current members and what they do in the context of that formation, but also by their other musical affiliations. Moreover, this example suggests that the sound of an ensemble, while certainly a product of the influence of its current members, often owes much to the sensibilities and experiences of the various musicians who have performed with it in its past.



In addition to the influence of nexus members past and present, the webs of intermusicality in Patua's version of "Pescaria" also extend to other recorded versions of the "same" song. While it is clear that Patua is Signifyin(g) on Caymmi's compositions in their arrangement, the inclusion of maracatu also references Gal Costa's well-known recording. Indeed, Costa's version also includes a bass line that mimics the bell pattern typically played by Pernambucco's maracatu groups (see Ex. 6 and Ex. 7). (31)



Patua's harmonic approach to "Pescaria" also shares more in common with Costa's arrangement and especially that of Leila Pinheiro than it does with the version recorded by its composer, Caymmi. For example, Patua, Costa, and Pinheiro all move through the W chord in the third phrase to a V chord under the melodic peak before resolving back to the I chord in the fourth phrase. Most notably, Patua, like Pinheiro, modulates up a half step on each of three repetitions of the A section while Caymmi (and Costa) stay in the same key throughout the song.

Despite the numerous features in Patua's arrangement that can be found in other versions of the song, their particular combination is unique. Moreover, their version contains its own particularities that are not to be found in the other performances of the song that I have heard. Most significant among these is Patua's treatment of the melodic accent in the third phrase. On every successive repetition of the A section, the length of the held note and the break in the groove increases in duration. First one bar, then three, and finally six full measures of rest are inserted along with a flute cadenza. By contrast, Pinheiro, Costa, and Caymmi each treat this event differently from each other, but basically the same way each time. To further punctuate this break and establish Patua's vision for the song, bassist Son remains on the root of the IV chord while the other harmonic instruments move to V, yielding a third inversion seventh chord. This calls greater attention to the break through the use of an unexpected chord voicing.

Patua's arrangement thus incorporates elements from several different versions of "Pescaria" as found on recordings and in their collective memory. The influence of past members of the group merges with the experiences and musical visions of current performers to further shape the final arrangement and allow them to establish a unique reading of the well-known music. In so doing, the musicians of Patua can be said to signify on each or any of the earlier arrangements and on musical practices from a variety of places and eras while acknowledging beloved musical authors all the while.

Signifyin(g) on the "Same" Song Differently

Because at least two of the musicians in my study have performed "Pescaria" with several different bands, this piece is also useful for illustrating the lived experience of flexibility for the many Bahian musicians whose ability to earn a living through music depends on performing with multiple ensembles. Both percussionist Farofa and bassist Son had been performing "Pescaria" with Banda Patua for quite some time, when Farofa received a call from a singer with whom he had worked several years before. This musician, Laurinha, had booked a performance for the upcoming Carnival and needed to put together a band for the event. At the earliest opportunity, Farofa recommended Son for the bass chair and the two began working with the rest of the musicians who were contacted to work on the new project.

Like Banda Patua, Laurinha also extensively reworks well-known music as a way to appeal to local audience demand and express her own creative vision. She describes her project as "pop-azeitado," or oiled pop, which is a reference to dende oil, an important ingredient in Afro-Bahian cuisine. Basically her show features hit songs culled from a variety of genres set to dance rhythms associated with Bahia. (32) Laurinha explained to me that her vision for the project was to create music that could effectively animate a party without sacrificing formal, lyrical, and harmonic sophistication, thereby avoiding the most common criticisms of Bahian popular music such as axe. By coincidence and design Laurinha's group and Banda Patua share several pieces of music in common, including "Pescaria." Despite any commonalities in repertoire, the efforts of both groups to distinguish themselves in the crowded Salvador scenes means that Farofa and Son, like many others in similar circumstances, are required to know and convincingly perform two different versions of the "same" music.

Laurinha's group typically held several rehearsals prior to each performance rather than meeting regularly like Patua. Her lineup was significantly less stable than Patua's as well, changing members on many occasions and using substitutes on numerous others. In several instances, rehearsals were devoted to teaching the material to new members--done through extensive repetition--rather than polishing the finer details of the group's show. This is likely due to the fact that in comparison to Patua, an ensemble that had some support from a producer, Laurinha bears the cost of her project alone and relies on her musicians to donate their time and energy in hope of securing paid work in the future. As a singer who made a name for herself performing at Carnival just prior to the rise of axe music and the related expansion of the Bahian music industries (Hinchberger 2999), she is able to book performances both in the nonseasonal circuits and during the carnival season peak. Her ability to find paid work along with her longstanding relationships with numerous musicians in Salvador has certainly helped her maintain her project over time and despite numerous challenges.

In Laurinha's group, as was the case with Patua, charts were never provided for musicians nor were recordings circulated before rehearsals. Furthermore, she had no recordings of her group performing the material in her repertoire to give to new or substitute players. Rather, she and her musicians depended on the widely shared knowledge of the music in her repertoire and their ability to learn new arrangements quickly for success in putting together presentations that present their work in the best possible light.

In keeping with her vision of pop azeitado, Laurinha performs "Pescaria" in a style that her percussionists describe as samba-reggae, the rhythm associated with Salvador's Afrocentric carnival groups known as blocos Afros (see Riserio 1981; Dunn 1992; Crook 1993; Guerreiro 1999, 2000). More specifically, by adding harmonic instruments over a slightly modified samba-reggae groove, Laurinha's version also signifies on axe music (see Ex. 8).

Laurinha's rereading also includes several other alterations to the arrangement of the tune. She includes an open section for a guitar solo and more significantly, inverts Caymmi's song form by beginning and ending with the prayer interlude. This approach can be heard in other versions of the song, but here, the prayer lyrics are sung over a variation of a common Afro-Cuban 6/8 groove played on congas, drums, and guitar.

Notably, the reference to Cuban music might be interpreted as a diasporic link--an important aspect of black identity politics in Bahia. In fact, such black Atlantic connections have been discussed in relation to Jamaica in the context of the blocos afros and samba-reggae (Crook 1993; Godi 2001). The use of congas in the introduction can also be understood as a demonstration of Farofa's musical skill, drawing on the respect that Cuban music is accorded in Bahia in comparison to samba-reggae and especially axe, which are commonly denigrated as party music that lacks substance.

Laurinha's harmonic approach to "Pescaria" is also distinct from the other versions I have heard with respect to her treatment of the third phrase's melodic peak. Most notably, she has the band remain on the IV chord for the rhythmic accent that follows her vocal climax. Only the bass moves to the V for one beat, creating a sudden and unexpected dissonance. Indicative of input from individual musicians in the ensemble, bassist Son's line is reminiscent of how he approached this same moment in Patua's arrangement, where his note choice created a third inversion V7 chord (V 4/2). By playing unexpected notes at this climactic moment in the songs, Son both creates a unique sound for each group and spotlights his own distinctive style.


Performing the "same" music with Laurinha and Patua, then, requires (or allows) Son to perform different parts according to particular musical sensibilities. The two versions of "Pescaria" that I heard him perform are in different styles (baiao/maracatu and samba-reggae) at different tempi, in different keys, and over different song forms. While it could be argued that he is presenting versions of the same song, I would suggest that he is effectively performing two distinct pieces of music.

Like Son, Farofa too is called on to manage each group's arrangement particularities. For example, he performs "Pescaria" in different styles on entirely different instruments--pandeiro with Patua and congas followed by twin surdos and repique with Laurinha. (33) Thus his work with the two groups highlights some of his more notable skills including his conga and pandeiro playing and his fluency in respected musical styles. Interestingly, it was Farofa who suggested the inclusion of "Pescaria" in Laurinha's set to begin with, and he was very active in arranging the tune for her group. I would suggest in so doing, that he made tactical use of his own musical knowledge and customary practice in the Salvador scenes. He drew on beloved material as a way to appease audience demand; he used the musical knowledge he had already developed from working with other ensembles as a way to facilitate further his musical multitasking; and he created distinct enough versions of the song to distinguish each ensemble that performed it. Finally, he accomplished all of this in a way that challenged and called attention to his musical abilities--and made his work pleasurable---without overburdening himself.

While it very well may be that past authors are being uncritically revered in these rereadings, malicia and the related probability of irony and multiple meanings also suggests that there is the possibility for some level of critique. For example, as I noted, part of Laurinha's project is to present music that is distinctly Bahian and suitable to animate a party while also expressing lyrical and harmonic complexity. This could be seen as a capitulation to dominant musical sensibilities, or worse, as a gesture that reinforces them. On the other hand, it can also be understood as a bold statement that claims "sophisticated" music for a mass audience (as I suggested above with my example of bossa nova and arrocha), a part of the population that is often accused of not wanting it or lacking the tools to appreciate it. Finally, my assertion of authorial respect in this example is based on my close relationship with Farofa, Son, Luciano, and Laurinha. I know from our numerous conversations that these performers are all great admirers of Caymmi. However, Farofa has also mentioned to me that he is disappointed that the composer relocated to Rio many years ago and has expressed that he feels more at home there than in Bahia despite having built his career singing about the northeastern state. Rereading Caymmi's music by using local rhythms, then, might also be understood as a reclaiming of Caymmi for Bahia or even a critique of his departure. These are merely a few of the many possibilities of meaning that can be taken from this and the many other instances of musical Signifyin(g) in Salvador.

Closing Comments

Flexible ensembles and malleable notions of music can create challenges and frustrations for professional popular musicians in Salvador. Revolving casts of players and unstable band lineups can create factions and interpersonal competition. It might also be argued that the quality of performances suffers because ensembles are constantly changing personnel, which can inhibit the development of band chemistry. In fact, Farofa raised this point on several occasions. Increased substitutability also means that wages often stagnate both within nexuses and at venues. Bahian musicians' remarkable ability to fill out songs and compensate for missing musicians--along with increasingly affordable technology--has made smaller, and therefore cheaper, ensembles more acceptable to venue operators and audiences. Several of my collaborators noted that bars in Salvador are paying significantly less money now than they did ten years ago. Most attributed this to the acceptance of smaller ensembles in venues that used to hire larger groups. According to them, when club owners offered less money, ensembles were downsized. When audiences did not react negatively, the trend continued until many venues now pay only enough to provide a living wage for a duo or trio. Moreover, when booking jobs either at a venue or as a supporting player in a nexus, many musicians are hard-pressed to demand better payment when it is well known that there are numerous other performers willing to do their job in a comparable fashion for less money. With careers and even survival at issue, the stakes for making oneself unsubstitutable by creating a unique identity as a performer are therefore quite high.

The premium placed on familiarity in Salvador, however, can constrain performers' ability to stand out from the crowd. For example, the demand for beloved music limits prospects for artists and ensembles who wish to compose new music rather than rework existing material. I was often told that there is a minimal audience in Salvador for newly composed music, especially by new and unknown artists. As a result, most local artists find it difficult to legally produce and sell CDs that have the potential to attract large audiences and earn substantial sums of money because they simply cannot afford to pay the copyright fees on the beloved material that they are often obliged to perform. Many talented performers are, therefore, relegated to selling their recordings of rearranged favorites on the pirate market or worse, giving away their CDs in hope of gaining the attention of a booking agent, patron, or record label.

Moreover, while the differentiated repetition of beloved music by canonic composers can keep that repertoire fresh, it may also have other detrimental effects for local musicians. Repeated expressions of appreciation for these core compositions and affirmations of the presence of prior authors during so many local performances can serve to reinforce the centrality of Brazilian music's luminaries and the musical values they represent, further limiting space for new sounds and new artists. Despite any enthusiasm expressed for local and emerging artists, I more commonly heard Bahian music fans and musicians alike lament that new composers did not measure up to the standards set by greats such as Caymmi, Jobim, and the like, and that most new music was simply not on par with the classic repertory.

At the same time, musical flexibility offers Salvador's musicians pleasures and possibilities. Musical multitasking and the necessary managing of several song arrangements can provide a means of empowerment to those up to the task by highlighting their broad musical knowledge, adaptability, and musicality. Creating rereadings of familiar music by Signifyin(g) on favorite songs also creates the possibility for professional satisfaction, pride through self-expression, and perhaps a shared sense of authorship. On my last visit to Salvador, Farofa proudly told me how a television commentator had complemented his arrangement of "Pescaria" by calling it the best version he had ever heard.

Finally, and perhaps ironically, flexibility lends stability to Bahia's competitive and ever-changing music market. Signifyin(g) on beloved music with different musical nexuses makes it possible to build musical careers in a place where employment options are severely limited for many people. Moreover, as musicians and music circulate in the heart of Afro Brazil, the productive tension of hybridity is made audible. As such, it is very much the sound of music in Salvador.

Fieldwork for this project was supported by the J. William Fulbright Foundation and the University of California, Berkeley. My research in Salvador would not have been possible without help from musicians Jorge Farofa, Son Mello, Luciano Caroso, Paulo Reis (Pastel), and Laurinha. For their assistance, music, and especially their friendship I am deeply indebted. Anonymous readers for the Black Music Research Journal provided useful critiques that I believe significantly improved this article. I also thank Deborah Wong, who offered valuable comments on an early version; Andrea Warren, who offered excellent editorial advice; and especially Jocelyne Guilbault and Danielle Robinson, who tirelessly provide insight and inspiration for my scholarly pursuits.


Banda Patua. Demo recording (ca. 2004). Compact disc.

Caymmi, Dorival. Retratos. EMI 8666752 ([1954] 2004). Compact disc.

Costa, Gal. Gal canta Caymmi. Mercury Records 8360142 (1976). Compact disc.

Laurinha. Field recording made by Jeff Packman (2005). Mini disc.

Pinheiro, Leila. Songbook Dorival Caymmi. Lumiar Discos. Compact disc.


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(1.) Notable exceptions are Becker ([1951-1953] 1999), Faulkner (1971), Peterson and White (1979), Bennett (1980), and MacLeod (1993), who have published on issues related to professional popular music making. See also Preston (1992), Frederickson and Rooney (1993), and Cottrell (2004) on professionalism in Western art music. Among the relatively few published cross-cultural studies of professional music making are Schuyler (1985), Baily (1988), Robbins (1991), and Buchanan (1995). For a general sociological summary of musical work in Bahia, see Guerreiro et al. (2004).

(2.) Tricia Rose (1994) has made similar arguments with respect to rap music in the United States. See below.

(3.) I use the term discourse drawing on the ideas of Michel Foucault (1972, 49), who asserts that "discourses ... [are to be treated as] ... practices which systematically form the objects of which they speak." Following Foucault, I do not treat notions such as "music," "culture," or "Brazilian identity" as "objects" or self-evident truths. Rather, I understand them to be constructed and imbued with great power through everyday practices including music making and various forms of communication about music. Furthermore, as I will argue, musical discourses in Salvador both inform and are informed by other powerful discursive contructs, especially race and social class.

(4.) See Twine (1998) and Sheriff (2001) for extended engagements with the notion of Brazil's racial democracy. See also Nascimento (1999).

(5.) Carnival, which revolves around outdoor performances on moving stages during parades represents a peak time for earning income in popular music. However, this event lasts only one week. In the months leading up to the pre-Lenten festival, numerous ensaios, or public rehearsals, are presented in local clubs.

(6.) The already difficult task of getting distribution for locally produced recordings is exacerbated by the fact that such projects often contain songs for which the copyright fees have not been paid. Because of legal concerns, the CD store owners and distributors with whom I spoke refuse to carry such material. In fact, many manufacturers will not produce the discs or disc packaging without proof that all fees have been paid. As a result, many musicians either make the CDs and packages themselves or, more commonly, they find a "pirate" manufacturer who will do so. I will discuss some of the reasons for the inclusion of such material below.

(7.) On pirate recordings in Brazil, see Bishop (2007). For a fundamental early study of such industries, see Manuel (1993).

(8.) Axe music is central to Bahian carnival and the Bahian recording industry, which began to flourish with the advent of the genre. See Perrone (1992), Crook (1993), Hinchberger (1999), Guerreiro (1998, 1999, 2000), and Moura (2001a, 2001b).

(9.) Although it is an umbrella term, mpb is typically used to refer to urban commercial popular music that followed in the wake of bossa nova and Tropicalia (see Dunn 2001). As such, the term is generally applied to music that reflects an eclectic mix of local and international influences, as well as a degree of elaborated harmony and poetry. Although there are many exceptions, mpb is often associated with middle and upper-class Brazilians. See Perrone (1989) and especially de Ulhoa Carvalho (1995) and Tupinamba de Ulhoa (2007).

(10.) For an important early study that theorizes the collaborative networks necessary to produce art, see Becker (1982).

(11.) Small group samba is commonly referred to as pagode throughout Brazil despite its origins in Rio de Janeiro (see Galinsky 1996). This term is especially problematic in Bahia owing to the existence of a regional variant of the same name that is distinguished from the more nationalized version discussed in Galinsky's article (see Leme 2003).

(12.) A more "traditional" bass function instrument is the seven-string guitar (violao de sete cordas). This instrument is less commonly played in Salvador than the electric bass.

(13.) In Brazil, the English cognate of guitar, guitarra, is reserved for electric instruments. Violao refers to an acoustic guitar, most commonly a nylon string instrument unless specified otherwise. Cavaquinho is a four-string instrument that resembles a ukulele and bandolim is a Brazilian mandolin.

(14.) Farofa is Jorge's nickname rather than his legal family name. It is how he refers to himself and how he is known around Salvador. The word farofa refers to a kind of manioc flour typical of Brazilian food.

(15.) While in the United States the term gig refers to any musical performance, in Salvador the word is reserved for those that are unrehearsed. Rehearsal studios typically cost R$35-R$45 for a three-hour block.

(16.) On the notion of the musical work in Western art music, see Goehr (2007).

(17.) For example, a performance in a restaurant or a bar typically includes more well-known material than a theater show by a singer-songwriter.

(18.) See Stroud (2000), Dunn (2001), Crook (2005), and Packman (2006) on participation in Brazilian popular music.

(19.) The keeping of melodies and lyrics in Salvador points to a distinction from versioning in Jamaican dub as discussed by Hebdige (1987). In this practice, which Rob Walser (1995) links with Signifyin(g), backing tracks of a recording are remixed and new melodies are recorded over the remix. An important aspect of dub is also the fact that versioning is primarily a studio technique, although some artists improvise in live performance over remixes that have had the original vocals removed. As I will discuss, rereading in Salvador's music scene is rooted in live performance and recording new versions can in fact be problematic for local musicians. Also, the similarities and differences between versioning and Signifyin(g) in various Afro-diasporic locations suggests the validity of Gilroy's assertion of particularity and begs more extensive inquiry.

(20.) On recordings as references in rock music, see Bennett (1980). On the power of the score in Western art music, see Kingsbury (1988).

(21.) Useful discussions of this notion with respect to popular music more generally can be found in Negus (1999) and Toynbee (2000).

(22.) I should point out that I consider my friends in Salvador to be entirely trustworthy and that I was never tricked in a malicious way by any of them. I interpret their many admonitions as evidence of the great care, hospitality, and feeling of protection that my wife and I have experienced on our numerous trips to Bahia.

(23.) See also Garofalo (1999) on copyright in music, which he links to print technology in Europe and conceptions of authorship.

(24.) For an important theorization of this tendency in postcolonial locations, see Bhabha ([1984] 1994).

(25.) While this gloss of Bahian musical values elides a deeply complex discourse with many contradictions and exceptions, my assertion is that even with the strong presence of African-derived culture in Salvador and the Bahian culture industries, and despite the ongoing Brazilian discourse of mesticagem, musical practices (other than those that are deemed to be "authentic" folk practices) that exhibit traits that are more closely aligned with Western European art music are commonly accepted as superior to those that express what might be understood as a more African-based aesthetic. For a general sense of my notion of African and African-American musical aesthetics, see Chernoff (2979), Floyd (1995), and especially Wilson ([2992] 1999). This work can be compared to, for example, Levy (1987) and Adorno (2992), whose writing, along with that of Ulhoa de Carvalho (1995), frames my perspective on Western art music sensibilities. In drawing this comparison, it is not my intention to overgeneralize values in musical practice nor to reinscribe a binary between European and Afro-diasporic musical aesthetics. Rather, I am arguing that the sensibilities discussed in the work of these scholars apropos of particular music traditions (African, African-American, and Western "classical") were expressed in daily discourse about popular music in ways that suggest the lasting power of such associations and Eurocentric hierarchies.

(26.) The popularity and commercial success of so-called inferior music was explained to me on countess occasions by members of the middle and upper classes as well as music industry personnel such as producers, impresarios, and several performers with the assertion that the masses simply did not want "quality" music. Despite this generalization of musical preferences, I attended numerous performances in working-class neighborhoods that featured the very music that the audience supposedly did not want. At these events, the audience commonly sang along with the songs, thereby demonstrating that they not only wanted to hear it, but also had an intimate knowledge of it. Furthermore, many of the professional performers who collaborated in my research--including those who frequently performed more valued styles of music--are from poor backgrounds. Even so, the classing (and the racialization) of musical taste and participation is very strong in Salvador.

(27.) If musicians in Salvador were to use written music for learning the song--most that I met do not--a lead sheet similar to this is a likely form. More commonly, the song sheets that are available for sale on the street include only lyrics and chords; the melody is not included. All musical examples are presented in 2/4 because much of the written music that I saw in Salvador was notated in that time signature.

(28.) "Louvado seja Deus" is a congregational response in a Brazilian Catholic mass.

(29.) I have seen Patua perform "Pescaria" numerous times and have both live and studio recordings of their arrangement of the song. The one on which I base my discussion is the studio recording that the band made for promotional purposes. This version differs in various ways from the live realizations of the song that I have heard. Most obviously, the studio version includes accordion and flute. From early on, the band struggled with keyboardists--the person who could be expected to perform the accordion part live--and eventually decided to work without keyboards. The wind player is also a very busy musician who has several high profile and higher paying commitments. He, therefore, works with Patua only occasionally. The band also has used substitutes when regular members were unavailable. Thus, as I argued earlier, each version of "Pescaria" is slightly different depending on the personnel. My decision to use the studio recording is based on the fact that it is a more "ideal" version than the live recording I have. Specifically, all of the instruments envisioned for the song are present. My live recording has a substitute drummer, no flute, and no keyboard or accordion. Furthermore, the studio recording is of much better quality and is, therefore, easier to hear.

(30.) On maracatu in commercial popular music, see Crook (2001) and Galinsky (2002).

(31.) Notably, Costa first gained notoriety in Brazil as part of the Tropicalia movement (see Dunn 2001). Led by fellow Baianos Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, the Tropicalists conscientiously incorporated elements of rock, such as electric guitars, with aspects of Brazilian and Afro-Brazilian music as a statement against the complacency and political apathy they sensed in much Brazilian popular music of the era. Costa's arrangement of "Pescaria," released eight years after Tropicalia, with its mix of accordion, keyboard, and electric bass referencing the maracatu certainly seems to embrace these musical values.

(32.) Much of Laurinha's repertoire is based on mpb.

(33.) Surdo is a vertically played bass drum used in samba and samba-reggae. Repique is a two-headed tenor drum also used in both musics. In axe music, the parts played by several different drummers performing on these instruments are combined into a composite rhythm played by one musician. See Example 8.

JEFF PACKMAN holds a Ph.D. in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Berkeley. A former working drummer, he has conducted extensive fieldwork in Brazil and the United States, where his focus has been on professional music making and cultural politics. He has taught at the University of California, Riverside; the University of California, Berkeley; and Federal University of Bahia, Brazil. He is currently a visiting assistant professor of music at the University of Toronto.

Table 1. Comparison of three arrangements of "Pescaria (Canoeiro)."

Artist:           Form:                        Comments:

Dorival Caymmi    AABA'                        Voice and seven-string
Banda Patua       CAA'A"                       Full band arrangement
                  C section is excerpt from
                    another song
                  A section modulates up
                    a half-step on each
                  Baiao/maracatu groove
Laurinha          BBAASA'BB                    Full band arrangement
                  B section played in 6/8
                  A section played as
                  Includes guitar solo (S)

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Signifyin(g) Salvador: Professional Musicians and the Sound of Flexibility in Bahia, Brazil's Popular Music Scenes


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