Wednesday, December 1, 2010

On the Road - Maranhão (Pt.4) Reggae

Although Flavors of Brazil's upcoming trip to São Luís, Maranhão, will not-unexpectedly be focused on the gastronomy and food culture of that city, if you asked most Brazilians what's the thing they associate most with São Luís it wouldn't be food at all. Most of them would reply, "Reggae."

The association of São Luís with this style of music is so close and intense that the city is often called the Brazilian Jamaica. Reggae took root in Maranhão very early after its development in Jamaica, in the early 1970s, and hasn't loosened its grip on the city's musical culture in the three succeeding decades. At night the historic center of São Luís throbs with the off-beat accents of reggae coming from numerous small bars, and major Brazilian reggae groups either make their homes here, or begin and end their countrywide tours in Maranhão. The major Jamaican reggae bands also visit frequently, and their shows are received wildly.

When it comes to ingestible substances, however, reggae in São Luís, as elsewhere, is associated more with something that is smoked rather than something that is eaten or imbibed - marijuana, or maconha as it's known in Portuguese. But for those familiar with the effects of this intoxicant (Flavors of Brazil, of course, isn't) one of the most common side-effects of smoking marijuana is what Brazilians call lariquinha. Or as it's known in English - the munchies. So perhaps there is a Flavors of Brazil connection after all between the gastronomy of São Luís and reggae. It's that late-night snack that one craves after a night in a smoke-filled reggae bar.

Here's a YouTube video of Brazilian singer Alcione, a native of Maranhão and one of Brazil's most well-known singers singing a reggae number called Jamaica a São Luís. The accompanying visuals are a slideshow of views of this island city.

Alcione - Jamaica a São Luís

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