30 Sep

Prologue(Senzala.1The Maroons, at ease around a fire,2 listen to the mysterious sounds of the forest. Night. The freedom cry of Zumbi, heard from far away, overwhelms the sounds of nature. The confraternity confabulates: the memory of the Hero, already a legend, is for them a reason to believe in freedom. An old Maroon, the storyteller, explains to the young ones the meaning of Zumbi’s voice, accompanied in his narration by a musical base of belly berimbaus (four players) and a tambourine. Accompanying the narrator is a chorus of three women and three men.) 

 NARRATOR:           Friends! I will tell you

a very beautiful story 

that has been told 

to the person who told

it to me  when he was a child.  

A very beautiful story 

I will tell, friends.
NARRATOR:           Beautiful because it’s true,

the story of Zumbi. 

FEMALE CHORUS:    He was a good king, 

a warrior,he was just, saintly, and humane.

NARRATOR:   The story of Zumbi.beautiful because it’s true. 

NARRATOR:           It’s told that he fought

against the enemy

with very unequal arms

for ninety years.
MALE CHORUS:     In the war against the enemy

with very unequal arms. 
NARRATOR:           He defended his people 

with intelligence and bravery. 
FEMALE CHORUS:            He was a friend and a mentor. 

He was everybody’s king.
NARRATOR:   He defended his people 

with intelligence and bravery.
ENTIRE CHORUS: He was everybody’s kin

NARRATOR:    It’s an enchanting history   

Within the life of enslavement     

of black people in this Brazil,   

who were able to fight so hard. 

MALE CHORUS:     It’s an enchanting history

within the life of enslavement 

NARRATOR:     As king of his quilombo3

    Zumbi governed very well. 

     He sheltered his brothers 

     against the hate of the master.

FEMALE CHORUS:    As king of his quilombo

Zumbi governed very well.

NARRATOR:    He was highly reputed

                                                                    among the malungosof his faction.

MALE CHORUS:     He was a god and a wise man

    He was a chief and a King.

NARRATOR:   He was highly reputed

among the malungos of his faction.

ENTIRE CHORUS: He was a commander and a King.

NARRATOR:  In his quilombo there were

Maroons from different clans.

  There were good ones and bad ones

 loyal ones and traitors.

FEMALE CHORUS:   Maroons from different clans

  were there in his quilombo.

ENTIRE CHORUS: There were traitors too.

NARRATOR:    Selected by the gods

 to help his siblings 

 he was able to follow the orders

to accomplish his mission.

MALE CHORUS:     Selected by the gods

to help his brothers.

FEMALE VOICE: He was able to follow the orders

NARRATOR:    They believe he came from the Congo.

Some believe he came from Guinea.

                                                                          FEMALE CHORUS:    Sent by Olorum5                                                                          

                                                                                  God who governs in all Africa 

Some believe he came from Guinea.

NARRATOR: They believe he came from Congo.

                                                                          NARRATOR:    Kosi abá6 Olorum! 

That’s the great salutation.

    MALE CHORUS: Kosi abá Olorum!

FEMALE CHORUS: Kosi abá Olorum!
NARRATOR: That’s the great salutation

ENTIRE CHORUS:  Kosi abá Olorum! 

NARRATOR:           Over there, near Alagoas

In the hideouts of Pernambuco

A brave group arose 

In the quilombo of Palmares.

MALE CHORUS:     In the hideouts of Pernambuco

Over there, near Alagoas

NARRATOR:           Zumbi revealed himself to be a great

Governor and judge.

    He governed his people

      With justice and freedom.

      FEMALE CHORUS: As great Governor and Judge

  Zumbi revealed himself. 

ENTIRE CHORUS:  With justice and freedom. 

FEMALE VOICE:  With justice and freedom.

NARRATOR:  In Zumbi’s justice

    There was no racial hatred.

MALE CHORUS:  Just the right to live

Without enslavement.

 NARRATOR:   There was no racial hatredIn Zumbi’s justice.             

NARRATOR:    Wherever he appeared                                   

                                    The impossible didn’t exist.                                   

                                    He had the calm of Oxalá                                   

He had the strength of Xangô. 

FEMALE CHORUS: The impossible didn’t exist.

Wherever he appeared.

NARRATOR:    He encouraged love and unity

Amongst the quilombola[1]  He punished the betrayer

And paid homage to the faithful. 

FEMALE CHORUS:            Love among the quilombola.

MALE CHORUS:     He encouraged love and unity. 

MALE VOICE:         He wanted good things for everybody

                                                                                     In the domains of Odudua.


NARRATOR:           Let us now remember

The great love of Calú

The great love for a White man

Who was the master’s son.

FEMININE CHORUS:        The great love of Calú.

Let us now remember. 

NARRATOR:           If the White man is an enemy

The son is an enemy, too.

MALE CHORUS:     This was the law of the people

Against the master their executioner.

NARRATOR:           The son is an enemy too

If the White man is an enemy. 

MALE CHORUS: This was the law of the people.

NARRATOR:           We also have in this story

The presence of a traitor.

FEMALE CHORUS:            This is character called Bimbo

A bad and reckless man

In the service of the master.

NARRATOR:           The presence of a traitor

We also have in this story. 

NARRATOR:           Bringing disharmony

Amongst all the malungos

                                   – A traitor to his brothers – 

                                   He favoured the enemy. 

MALE CHORUS:     Among all the malungos

Bringing disharmony.

NARRATOR:           Now ladies and gentlemen--

Pay full attention

                                   To this famous tragedy

                                   That is just about to start.

FEMALE CHORUS:     Pay full attention

                Now ladies and gentlemen.

ENTIRE CHORUS: Pay full attention.


[1] Senzala: Lodgings of the slaves, conceptually and materially the opposite of the casa grande (big house), where the Master lived. See Gilberto Freyre, Casa Grande & Senzala: formação da família brasileira sob o regime da economia patriarcal. Recife: Global Editora, 2003: 11-25; 164.

[2] The word used is negro. As explained in the Introduction, we have chosen to translate negro in different, context-dependent ways; here, we translate it as Black.

[3] Quilombo: hideout of the runaway slaves or Maroons, usually located in the forest or mountains; these were organized communities, which could also include fugitive Whites and Amerindians. Palmares was the most famous quilombo in Brazil, which developed in the colonial period, between 1605 and 1694, in a region belonging to the state of Alagoas; it seems to have reached around 30.000 inhabitants and, according to the anonymous text Relação das Guerras de Palmares (1678) was governed by the king Ganga Zumba. In 1676, after being attacked by troops led by Captain Fernão Carrilho, Ganga Zumba tried to sign a peace treaty with the Portuguese, agreeing to their proposed encroachment of their settlements and their demand that runaway slaves should be returned to them. However, Zumbi, Ganga Zumba’s nephew, refused to accept these terms and soon became a leader of the rebellion. Due to his bravery, he gained the respect of the Maroons and was elected king of the Quilombo and Ganga Zumba’s successor. See Thornton (2008), and Carneiro (1958).

[4] Malungo: companion, comrade. We leave this word untranslated, since it was the name that Afro-Brazilian slaves used for each other; it indicates a person of the same condition or of the same country. It derives possibly from either Kikongo “Mualungo” (in the boat) according to Câmara Cascudo (1954, pp. 540-541), or from the word “Mah’ungo,” which means neighbour. 

[5] Literally meaning the lord of the skies in Yoruba, Olorum, identified with the sun, is one of the three manifestation of the supreme God in Yoruba religion.

[6] Kosi abá: Kosi seems to be a mistranscription of Kosè, which means “Amen;” “abá” means “old”. See José Beniste, Dicionario Yorubá-Português, (São Paulo, Bertrand Brasil, 2011). This prhase is more likely to be part of the better known “kosi oba afi Olorun,” a ritual salutation which means “there’s no other lord apart from god,” where “oba” means “King.” 

[7] Quilombola: members of a quilombo.

[8] Odudua, or Oduduwa, is also called by the titles “Olofin Aye,” “Olufe,” or “Olofin Oduduwa:” he represents the power of the womb, that brings forth existence, and is one of three manifestations of the supreme god. Historically, he was the first king of the city of Ile-Ife in the ancient Yoruba kingdom, now in the territory of Nigeria.

[9] Song and dance for Xangô, divinity of Yoruba origin.

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