Afoxé Alafin Oyó


Afoxé. Afro Brazil. Afoxé Alafin Oyó. Olinda, Pernambuco state. Since 1986. Carnaval

Afoxé Alafin Oyó


Afoxé. Afro Brazil. Afoxé Alafin Oyó. Olinda, Pernambuco state. Since 1986. Carnaval



Those watching an Afoxé parade on the streets of Olinda, and touched by the determined voices and percussion of the black people of Pernambuco state, may not imagine the many smiles and dance moves it required to transcend centuries of silencing.

And not that long ago: in 1986, Alafin Oyó paraded for the first time in the Olinda Carnaval. Those children of Xangô in town were dissidents of another Afoxé, called Araodé. All they needed to do was take to the streets with their chants in the tongues of Saints, their drums, and their beliefs, and in return, there was aggression: violence in words, cans, and rocks flying their way.

But a group called Rei do Benin, or Alafin Oyó in the Iorubá language, carries an ancestral experience of resistance. Nothing could silence their drums. Starting on the following year, they transformed physical pain into a performance for liberation by going up the Olinda hills backwards, as an offering to the Orixás.

“I’ve come from Africa, I am Nagô

I’m son of Alafin Oyó...

The pain wouldn’t go and wouldn’t cease

But I was never afraid because my head belongs to Alafin”

Lyrics to the song Vim da África by Afoxé Alafin Oyó

Such unprecedented repression just a few decades ago? That’s because the connection between Afoxé and Candomblé is one of the most prominent Carnival revelries, and prejudice has unfortunately conditioned many to fear the African Kings. If the Rural Maracatu and Maracatu Nation processions have been influenced by Catholic ones, Afoxé represents an Afro procession: the fabrics, the dancing bodies, the words… everything is very close to the Axé.

So much so that the songs and melodies are mostly the same one would hear in terreiros following the ijexá lineage. This Candomblé of the streets, as it’s often referred to, frequently starts with Padê celebrations inside homes. This ritual offering to Exú, the magical entity responsible for the liaison between humans and Orixás, prepares everyone for a wonderful party. After the preparations, the Afoxés meet at a sacred location in the city: Pátio do Terço. One whole night of Carnival is dedicated to this meeting.

“It’s within the Afoxé that we can identify as citizens.

It goes beyond religion and beyond Carnaval games”

Fabiano Santos

In 2015, Alafin Oyó performed under Fabiano Santos’ direction, honoring the women educators of Pernambuco state: teachers and activists Martha Rosa Queiroz, Inaldete Pinheiro, and Lúcia dos Prazeres. This Afoxé is interested in its community social development, and therefore its energy is focused in the repercussion of acts with local impact. Health, education, and gender are some of the themes Alafin cares about as a group.

Aside from the states of Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, Afoxés parade in Bahia state, too, with their atabaques, agogôes, and agbês. The latter are instruments made from calabashes covered in colorful beads that impress spectators in parades due to their beauty: they are also called afoxé.

“Oh, my father in heaven, it’s Carnival on Earth

Call everyone

Have them come down and see

The sons of Gandhi”

Lyrics to Filhos de Gandhi, one of the most famous Afoxé songs in Bahia, by Gilberto Gil

Little by little, the Afoxés spill over the boundaries established by prejudice, and take to the streets, conquering the respect of those who join in the Carnaval. Some already acknowledge and echo the wisdom: Afoxé is the cradle of Axé and Samba, two potent Brazilian music styles. And if there’s a will to take the streets and party, it’s worth calling upon the children of the saints to bless the paths of those who play.


Fabiano Santos



Fabiano Santos


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