Sao Felix Baiano - Reconcavo

Bumba meu boi

Dance, my ox

The variety of dances and dance theaters indigenous to the Recôncavo is impressive, and the dance theater known as “Bumba meu boi” (Dance, my ox), possesses a special quality. It is a folk dance with a theatrical presentation whose origins have not been conclusively established. Some researchers assume that the dance is of Portuguese origin; others believe it has its roots in Africa, while others still consider it to be indigenous to Brazil.

The ox plays a key role in the story enacted in Bumba meu boi. The ox belongs to the landowner, but the pregnant wife of the slave Pai Francisco wants to eat its tongue. The slave shoots the ox, his wife eats the tongue, but the landowner soon finds out who is responsible for the animal’s disappearance. Furious, he sends an Indian chieftain to capture the slave. The slave owner orders the slave to bring the ox back to life. A Portuguese doctor fails to do so. Only an Indian shaman succeeds in reviving the ox. All are overjoyed and dance the night away ...

In the Recôncavo, Bumba meu boi is mainly performed at the June festivals. It is an elaborate dance theater in which all the figures wear sumptuous and very special costumes. The ox in particular is portrayed in imaginative disguises.

There are various forms of Bumba meu boi, particularly in terms of the orchestration. The styles are named after the main instruments – the “zambumba” (a cylindrical drum), the “matraca” (wooden blocks beaten against each other) or “orquestra” (with wind instruments).

Bumba meu boi is taught in families, at schools, dance academies and clubs. Every town and every village in the Recôncavo has at least one of these dance troupes. Bumba meu boi is also at home in the Province of Maranhao.