Boi Bumba

Jun 26 - 29, 2015
Parintins, Brazil
Photo by: Embratur
A pregnant peasant convinces her husband to kill a bull, trouble ensues, and eventually redemption. A simple tale told grandly before a crowd of thousands.

Video

Boi Bumba Folklore Festival in Parintins, Amazonas, Brazil

  • video thumbnail for Ritual Xamanismo Kaxinua - Boi Caprichoso - Festival de Parintins 2010
    Ritual Xamanismo Kaxinua - Boi Caprichoso - Festival de Parintins 2010
  • video thumbnail for Amaz么nia 茅 Boi-Bumb谩
    Amaz么nia 茅 Boi-Bumb谩
Details
Essentials

Details

Boi Bumbaroughly translates as 鈥淏eat the Bull,鈥  and relates to a popular folktole told throughout northeastern Brazil that weaves cultural threads from indigenous Amazonian peoples, Portuguese colonists, and Catholicism. During Boi Bumba, the story isn鈥檛 just simply told. In the Parintins version, it鈥檚 an elaborate stage production featuring parade floats, giant puppets, hundreds of costumed performers and lots and lots of feathers and drums.

But First the Tale

Pai Francisco and Mae Catarina are a poor married couple. Mae鈥檚 pregnancy causes her to have strong cravings for beef tongue, so to appease her appetite and bring some peace to their household, Pai Francisco steals the prized ox (boi) of a wealthy farmer to obtain the desired dish. The bull is killed, the crime is discovered by the farmer, and Pai Francisco is arrested. Enter a priest and a shaman who magically revive the bull, and a happy ending is reached.

Characters emerge from 30-foot tall parade floats designed to resemble jaguars, snakes, jungle birds, and rainforest creatures. While the main characters鈥攖he husband and wife (traditionally considered ugly, thus played by a man in drag), the bull, the farmer, the priest, and the shaman鈥攕ing their side of the story, they鈥檙e backed up by hundreds of nearly naked dancers, male and female, doffing elaborate feathered headdresses and little else. 

Regionally, there are multiple festivals celebrating boi meu bumba that are akin to small street parades with players in costumes intermingled with a drum line. But in Parintins, it鈥檚 a whole different game. Here it鈥檚 a competition with two sides--the Caprichoso team versus the Garantido team鈥攕taging their own elaborate versions of the tale. The Caprichoso鈥檚 bull is black with a blue star on its forehead, the Garantido鈥檚 white with a red heart on its forehead, and those color schemes are reflected in the audience members attire as the 40,000-person audience screams and cheers for their troupe鈥檚 performances. Fierce loyalties trace family blood lines back nearly 100 years, but the competition remains friendly and boisterous.

The performances are mind-blowing in their grand spectacle. The simple Amazonian tale of desire, death, and resurrection is elevated by over-the-top production values. Characters emerge from 30-foot tall parade floats designed to resemble jaguars, snakes, jungle birds, and rainforest creatures. While the main characters鈥攖he husband and wife (traditionally considered ugly, thus played by a man in drag), the bull, the farmer, the priest, and the shaman鈥攕ing their side of the story, they鈥檙e backed up by hundreds of nearly naked dancers, male and female, doffing elaborate feathered headdresses and little else. Iguanas, armadillos, and ocelots appear on stage as well, life-sized remote controlled facsimiles painted in Day-Glo colors. Each team performs their tale one a day over the three days, with each staging bearing slight variations and themes. All involve drumming and dancing, dancing and drumming, their rhythms representing the spiritual and natural energy of the rainforest. Even the character of the Catholic priest is more animal-driven power than fusty incanted rites. (Boi Bumba takes place in the last weekend in June, nominally in honor of St. John鈥檚 Feast day.)

The Magic Mix

So many elements set this boi meu bumba apart from the others in Brazil: the riotous competition, the long and complex staging, the incessant days of drumming creating a fever pitch of heightened celebration, the tens of thousands of revelers who descend upon the town, but nothing quite elevates the mood than its physical location. Parintins is an island city deep in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, the nearest town, Manaus, lies nearly 350 miles away, reached only by river boat. Celebrants have earned their right to a party because the initial journey is not an easy one鈥攄epending on conditions, it can take between 30-50 hours to get to Parintins via boat where your bed is often a simple hammock.

Unlike other multi-day festivals that take place in larger cities (think Mardi Gras or Carnival ), it鈥檚 virtually impossible to leave the celebration due to its isolation on the Amazon River. There is nowhere to go to escape Boi Bumba. Revelers spend their days engaged in street dancing and drinking capairinhas and capetas, cocktails made from local cachaca, and eating tacata, the local hearty soup. After the perfomances at night, both players and audience return to the streets, bars and restaurants and continue the party.

Essentials

Details

Boi Bumbaroughly translates as 鈥淏eat the Bull,鈥  and relates to a popular folktole told throughout northeastern Brazil that weaves cultural threads from indigenous Amazonian peoples, Portuguese colonists, and Catholicism. During Boi Bumba, the story isn鈥檛 just simply told. In the Parintins version, it鈥檚 an elaborate stage production featuring parade floats, giant puppets, hundreds of costumed performers and lots and lots of feathers and drums.

But First the Tale

Pai Francisco and Mae Catarina are a poor married couple. Mae鈥檚 pregnancy causes her to have strong cravings for beef tongue, so to appease her appetite and bring some peace to their household, Pai Francisco steals the prized ox (boi) of a wealthy farmer to obtain the desired dish. The bull is killed, the crime is discovered by the farmer, and Pai Francisco is arrested. Enter a priest and a shaman who magically revive the bull, and a happy ending is reached.

Characters emerge from 30-foot tall parade floats designed to resemble jaguars, snakes, jungle birds, and rainforest creatures. While the main characters鈥攖he husband and wife (traditionally considered ugly, thus played by a man in drag), the bull, the farmer, the priest, and the shaman鈥攕ing their side of the story, they鈥檙e backed up by hundreds of nearly naked dancers, male and female, doffing elaborate feathered headdresses and little else. 

Regionally, there are multiple festivals celebrating boi meu bumba that are akin to small street parades with players in costumes intermingled with a drum line. But in Parintins, it鈥檚 a whole different game. Here it鈥檚 a competition with two sides--the Caprichoso team versus the Garantido team鈥攕taging their own elaborate versions of the tale. The Caprichoso鈥檚 bull is black with a blue star on its forehead, the Garantido鈥檚 white with a red heart on its forehead, and those color schemes are reflected in the audience members attire as the 40,000-person audience screams and cheers for their troupe鈥檚 performances. Fierce loyalties trace family blood lines back nearly 100 years, but the competition remains friendly and boisterous.

The performances are mind-blowing in their grand spectacle. The simple Amazonian tale of desire, death, and resurrection is elevated by over-the-top production values. Characters emerge from 30-foot tall parade floats designed to resemble jaguars, snakes, jungle birds, and rainforest creatures. While the main characters鈥攖he husband and wife (traditionally considered ugly, thus played by a man in drag), the bull, the farmer, the priest, and the shaman鈥攕ing their side of the story, they鈥檙e backed up by hundreds of nearly naked dancers, male and female, doffing elaborate feathered headdresses and little else. Iguanas, armadillos, and ocelots appear on stage as well, life-sized remote controlled facsimiles painted in Day-Glo colors. Each team performs their tale one a day over the three days, with each staging bearing slight variations and themes. All involve drumming and dancing, dancing and drumming, their rhythms representing the spiritual and natural energy of the rainforest. Even the character of the Catholic priest is more animal-driven power than fusty incanted rites. (Boi Bumba takes place in the last weekend in June, nominally in honor of St. John鈥檚 Feast day.)

The Magic Mix

So many elements set this boi meu bumba apart from the others in Brazil: the riotous competition, the long and complex staging, the incessant days of drumming creating a fever pitch of heightened celebration, the tens of thousands of revelers who descend upon the town, but nothing quite elevates the mood than its physical location. Parintins is an island city deep in the heart of the Amazon rain forest, the nearest town, Manaus, lies nearly 350 miles away, reached only by river boat. Celebrants have earned their right to a party because the initial journey is not an easy one鈥攄epending on conditions, it can take between 30-50 hours to get to Parintins via boat where your bed is often a simple hammock.

Unlike other multi-day festivals that take place in larger cities (think Mardi Gras or Carnival ), it鈥檚 virtually impossible to leave the celebration due to its isolation on the Amazon River. There is nowhere to go to escape Boi Bumba. Revelers spend their days engaged in street dancing and drinking capairinhas and capetas, cocktails made from local cachaca, and eating tacata, the local hearty soup. After the perfomances at night, both players and audience return to the streets, bars and restaurants and continue the party.

Essentials

Inside Scoop

Chip's Take

Embraturboibumba    04

 

Imagine a tribal Brazilian opera deep in the Amazon, this is almost a mythic festival given the challenges getting there and the passionate experience once you鈥檝e arrived. You鈥檙e either going to love Boi Bumba or you鈥檙e going to hate it, so plan wisely. This festival is for the aficionados of cultural curiosity who are fascinated by those rites and rituals that have not been influenced by modern society.The setting on an island in the Amazon with the nightly performances in the Bumbodromo (such a fun word to say) adds to the atmosphere. But, you are traveling to an island in many senses of the word. Once you get there, you won鈥檛 likely be leaving until the festival is completed and the tribal beat will haunt or caress your every breath. If you love an immersive, anthropologically-fascinating, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, this may be the one you鈥檒l be showing your friends ten years from now.

Location

This annual event takes place in a specially built stadium鈥攖he Bumbodromo鈥攐n the island city of Parintins.