Can Someone Inexperienced Play Music At A Highly Intense Religious Ceremony?


#BatucadaBeats – when this project was conceptualised, it was about the desire to learn the popular street drums music of Brazil. Somewhere along the way I discovered Candomble(an afro-brasilian) religion. Most of the music that Brazil is popular for has its roots in this religion.

I thought to myself, ‘Can I play at a Candomble ceremony instead?’ This was without knowing what I was getting into.

This resulted in multiplying the complexity of this project. But since I was commited there is(and was) no looking back. Candomble is secretive and even access to visuals has been difficult.

Thankfully for me, Mario Pam introduced me to beats of Candomble. With no musical experience, it must have been frustrating for Mario to teach someone like me.

But if it was, his smile managed to hide it really well.

Photo of Can Someone Inexperienced Play Music At A Highly Intense Religious Ceremony? 1/3 by Sachin Bhandary

Despite Mario’s amazing lessons, there was a problem. The project to my mind wouldn’t be complete unless I was able to perform for an audience.

What is a the test of a musician(or even a non-musician) if he/she doesn’t play for people?

This meant I had only one option. I had to play at a Candomble ceremony.

My pursuit led me to many disappointments. I wasn’t allowed to click pictures at Camdomble terrerois ( temples or woship places), playing music at their serious ceremonies almost seemed impossible.

That is when some effort led me to this man.

Photo of Can Someone Inexperienced Play Music At A Highly Intense Religious Ceremony? 2/3 by Sachin Bhandary

He looks quite edgy, right?

That is Pai Washington(Father Washington) who heads a Candomble house in Arenoso, a favela in Salvador.

This picture was taken when he was possessed by one of the spirits of Indian(indigenous American) ancestors. The spirits or gods are called Caboclos.

On attending two ceremonies, where I was allowed to click pictures, I nervously asked ‘é possível para mim para tocar bateria em seu festa?’ 

It was hoping against hope that I checked the possibility of playing drums at their ceremony.

And then…

Photo of Can Someone Inexperienced Play Music At A Highly Intense Religious Ceremony? 3/3 by Sachin Bhandary

The man to the right smiled and said ‘sim’.

That was the sweetest word I had heard in a long time. That I would play music at a Candomble ceremony seemed like an impossible dream. But it at least entered the realm of possibility.

Now, I take a crowded bus every evening to get to this favela. Bira, my new music teacher(the guy on the right) now has the task of getting frustrated with my non-existent music skills.

The next ceremony is about two weeks away.

Can someone who never ventured close to a musical instrument, play at a high intensity ceremony? That too, with less than one month of  learning?

Not just that, with people who take their music quite seriously.

In addition to that, the music is fuel for the ceremony. It is to these drum beats that the manifestation of spirits of gods, dance. Mistakes won’t be allowed.

Before being allowed to play, I need to prove that I am worthy enough.

Do you think I am? Do you think I can replace the guy next to my teacher?

Only time will tell. The next two weeks will be interesting, to say the least.

Wish me luck!

Follow my journey as I travel to 12 different countries to take a challenge in each one of them. These odd experiences should end in some learning for me. And who knows, may be for all of us.


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