What is maculelê?
Maculelê is a traditional Afro-Brazilian dance performed with sticks and machetes. Maculelê was created by African slaves in Brazil who worked the sugar cane plantations. It is believed that during times of rest between working, slaves would practice this dance with the machetes they used for cutting sugar cane. The basic movements of Maculelê imitate the motion of chopping. Many Maculelê songs are sung in the Yoruba language, which was the native language of many of the Africans who were enslaved in Brazil.
The dance is performed in a ritual circle called the "roda." Two dancers at a time play together in the center of circle, while the other participants keep the rhythm by hitting their sticks or machetes together and take turns leading songs. The instrument played is the atabaque, a traditional Brazilian drum, and the rhythms used are Congo, Afoxé, and Barra Vento. The agogô, a cowbell, accompanies the drum.
In the past, many folkloric groups in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil worked to keep this traditional dance alive. Today, there are no longer any schools of Maculelê. It has become the practice of Capoeira schools to preserve and pass on traditional Maculelê.