The festas juninas — the cycle of street parties celebrated in the Brazilian Nordeste (Northeast) and built around the feast days of Santo Antônio, São João and São Pedro, but usually lumped together as São João — will be again celebrated here in Salvador’s Centro Histórico with the appropriate polar opposite of pomp and circumstance.
São João in Bahia is more Christmas-like than Christmas. It’s a harvest festival built largely around corn; celebratory people returning to the small towns and little villages from whence they sprung in the interior…to the ancestral fold of family and generations-long friendship. Where tables are set with sweet corncakes and corn puddings, and licor de jenipapo, a traditional cordial made from an odd-looking fruit native to the region.
Where the dance music is played on accordion or bandoneon or concertina, and triangle like you’ve never heard it played outside of Brazil; and zabumba, a Portuguese drum played with Afro-Brazilian rhythms. The umbrella term for this music is “forró” (faw-HAW, kind of), covering several assorted cadences.
There will be forró in the praças (public squares) of Pelourinho throughout June, and on the nights of June 23rd, 24th and 25th there will forró by big-names (Alceu Valença, Elba Ramalho, Geraldo Azevedo among them) on a stage set up in the Terreiro de Jesus.
Traditional party attire is small-town hillbilly, country-style stamped fabric-dresses for the women and girls, straw hats for both men and women, with little boys sporting drawn-on moustaches and little girls daubed on freckles (even little black girls).
Viva São Joãooooo!!!!