* Irene's Country Corner * - Brasil - Holidays & Feasts - Bumba Meu Boi



 - Bumba Meu Boi -


Picture scanned from Histórias e Músicas Brasileiras - Marinheiro, Marinheiro. São Paulo. Ed.Abril 1982


The "Bumba-meu-boi" is is a very popular and widespread comic-dramatic dance, a burlesque pantomime which performances are traced to colonial times when it served as a diversion for the slaves on the cattle estates is very popular in northeastern Brazil.

© Lisa.  Not for download. Please, visit The Graphics Cupboard if you like this graphic.

It is a parade of human and animal characters to the sounds of music and singing, performed in Brazil from north to south, with some regional differences but keeping unchanged its essential structure.

It usually happens from the middle of November to January 6th. It started at the end of the 18th century in the coastal sugar plantations and cattle ranches of northeastern Brazil and from there spread to the interior of the country.

The tale of the "Bumba-meu-boi" has many versions. The general theme is a satire pitting the oppressive master against a black slave, or sometimes a lowly worker, who gets into mischief that causes the death or disfiguration of the master's prize bull and finishes joyfully with the bull's miraculous resuscitation and dance. Its name comes from the verb "bumbar", meaning to beat up or against, and the expression is chanted by the crowd as an invitation for the bull, or better, the men under the bull costume to charge against them.

Normally, there is a group of singers and the "chamador" or caller, who introduces the characters with different songs. The instruments used during this feast are the acoustic guitar, the accordion, the Brazilian tambourine, and the "tamborim". Songs, together with music, mark the steps of the show. There are songs to thank the landlord and the space where the show is performed; there are hymns to real people or to mythical characters, enriched by several ethnical features.

© Lisa.  Not for download. Please, visit The Graphics Cupboard if you like this graphic.

In some moments, the dance becomes a dramatic language. The costumes are very colorful and ornated, covered by ribbons and mirrors which reflect the lights and the environment, thus multiplying the movements of dance and having the supernatural power to catch the love of the public and to create a protection for the performers, so that negative energies go back to those who have sent them. The use of garlands, hats, ornaments has a dramatic function and is based on a rigorous symbololism, hence it is not only a scenic detail.

The "bumba-meu-boi" has some close relatives in other regions of Brazil. In northern Brazil there is the "boi-bumbá", danced during the festival of "Bois de Parintins" and in the island of Santa Catarina, in southern Brazil, there is the "boi-de-mamão" ("mamão" is the word for papaya). It's said that it receives the name "boi-de-mamão" because originally a green papaya was used as the bull's head.


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This page was created on: January 24th 2002.
Last updated on: August 3rd 2003.

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~ Graphics by Irene ~
Bumba-meu-boi illustration by Michelle (Histórias e Músicas Brasileiras - Marinheiro, Marinheiro. São Paulo. Ed.Abril 1982)
Green background by
Grace ~ Yellow background by The Mother Bear ~ Light background by Rajiv ~
Please, note that The Mother Bear is not on line anymore.

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