University of São Paulo: Ogan’s musicality goes beyond Candomblé and needs greater recognition

NoBrazilian and universal music, the beat of a drum is easily identified! Be it on the drums of a samba school, where instruments (drums) of different timbres, shapes and sounds are responsible for the rhythm. Whether through the art of a percussionist musician, who can perform in different musical rhythms, there is the “drum” and its different “touches”. “That’s why I argue that the musicality of an Ogan master of Candomblé is of paramount importance for Brazilian music”, says musician and researcher Vítor Israel Trindade de Souza.

He is the author of a master’s research presented at the School of Communications and Arts (ECA) of USP entitled O Ogan Otum Alabê: priest and percussionist musician of the Ketu Nation at Ilê Axé Jagun. Under the guidance of professor Alberto Tsuyoshi Ikeda, collaborating professor at the Graduate Program in Music at ECA and at Universidade Estadual Paulista Júlio de Mesquita Filho (Unesp), Trindade analyzes and highlights the importance of the Ogan of Candomblé in what he calls a “necessary repositioning” within Brazilian music. “Furthermore, Ogan deserves to be duly recognized by the culture in general and by society as a whole”, she emphasizes. And being recognized in society, as Trindade argues, also involves professionalization. “Ogan is already a profession duly recognized by the Ministry of Labour. Thus, a master Ogan can work, in addition to music, in various fields, such as education and culture, for example”, highlights the researcher to Jornal da USP .

Ogan citizen
Trindade’s trajectory as Ogan is one of the reasons why he began to undertake his study. About 30 years ago, during a visit to a Candomblé house, the musician was, as he says, “designated by the saint” to carry out the activity of Ogan. And so he did at the Casa de Candomblé Ilê Axé Jagun, where he fulfilled and followed all the rituals necessary to become an Ogan and, at the same time, exercising his activities as a professional musician and art educator.

In addition to the recognition of Ogan’s musicality within Brazilian music, Trindade also shows in his research how much the work of an Ogan is linked to education, especially with regard to Law 10.639/03 of education guidelines.

Atabaque de peg at Ilê Axé Jagun, with Pejigan Manoel, Omoloiê Victor and Opotum William – Photo: Ialorixá Bárbara de Oiá, 2017
But, in addition to his own trajectory, Trindade decided to describe in his research the trajectory of another Ogan from the same house, called “Otum Alabê” William Eduardo dos Santos, known as Opotum Bicudo. “In a way, I was able to follow his work while Ogan was at home and his difficulty in earning a living”, says Trindade. He points out that an Ogan in the Candomblé house is responsible for almost everything, from various maintenance of the facilities to his main function, which is to play and command the rituals. “Ogan Otum Alabê is a priest and musician who became a professional, because most of the time he lives exclusively on what he receives as fees for his services on the drum”, describes the researcher. But these fees are not always enough.

In addition to the trajectory of William Eduardo dos Santos, Trindade presents in his research an excerpt about the Ketu Nation, one of the reference nations of the cult of the Orixás. As Trindade reports in his study, “the Ogan Otum Alabê, or William Eduardo dos Santos, is the main Ogan of the Casa do Candomblé. He is the ‘handyman’ in the world of the Ketu Nation. It is the one who knows the initiation precepts with all the details that the ritual requires, such as the songs, the movements belonging to each Orixá and the many other important functions in the daily life of the Religion of the Orixás.”

On education
In addition to the recognition of Ogan’s musicality within Brazilian music, Trindade also shows in the study how much the work of an Ogan is linked to education, especially with regard to Law 10.639/03 of education guidelines, which includes in the official curriculum of the Education Network the mandatory presence of the theme “Afro-Brazilian and African History and Culture” in the subjects of primary and secondary education.

All my work is directed towards Afro-Brazilian culture, and it is impossible to talk about Afro-descendant music without mentioning Ogan, whether he is from any nation or religion, such as Cuban musicians or Jamaican or Haitian reggae musicians who have the same roots”, describes Trinity.

“My work shows that the activity of Ogan can be inserted in education”, emphasizes the researcher. Trindade’s own work, for example, was strengthened through projects developed in the city of Embu das Artes, in São Paulo, in which more than a thousand teachers were assisted who had access to law enforcement tools. “That’s where Ogan’s work came from, for example”, cites the musician, remembering that his mother, Raquel Trindade, and her son, Marcelo Tomé, participated in these projects.

From the Candomblé tradition
The role of Ogan, as Trindade says, arises with the foundation, in the early 19th century, of a Candomblé house in the Barroquinha neighborhood, in the city of Salvador, Bahia. “The house was founded by three women who attended a Catholic community called Ordem da Irmandade da Boa Morte. The Africans Adetá or Iá Detá, Iá Calá, Iá Nassô”, he reports, noting that, as it is a cult more directed to women, the position of Ogan was created. “After all, men would have to have a role.”

An Ogan, as the researcher describes, is usually spiritually born as an abian (a beginner in Candomblé) and grows up as a “drum man”. He lives the daily life of Candomblé, has been eating homemade food since he was a child: acarajé, acará, omalá or caruru are part of his trivial menu. “When he assumes his position in the House, he is a man who has all the references of a high-ranking and highly decorated military man or even a master or doctor in his profession”, explains Trindade.

From family tradition
The researcher and musician Vitor Trindade considers himself a “late” Ogan, as he started in the activity around the age of 30. “In general, most Ogans have been in the role since they were little, as is the case with William,” he says. In addition to being a musician and art educator, Trindade directs the Teatro Popular Solano Trindade, located in the city of Embu, in Greater São Paulo. Son of Raquel Trindade, writer, visual artist and folklorist, Vitor Trindade is the grandson of Solano Trindade (Raquel’s father), who was also a poet, folklorist, painter, actor, playwright, filmmaker and Black Movement activist.

As a musician, Trindade has recorded seven albums: Ayrá Otá , Vitor da Trindade and Carlos Caçapava (2000, São Paulo), Revista do Samba (2001, Germany), Other Bossas (2003, Germany), Revista Bixiga Oficina do Samba (2005, São Paulo), Hortensia du Samba (France, 2011), Samba do Revista (2011, São Paulo), Ossé , Vitor da Trindade (2015, São Paulo). Trindade is proud to point out that his research is the “first black music project at ECA”. He is also the author of the book Oganilu, O Caminho do Alabê , independently published in 2019.

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