DONA SANTA - Queen and Yalorisha2

During its heyday, the Elephant Maracatu, according to Guerra Peixe, made its procession through the streets in 1928 with the following components: the King, the Queen, lady-in-waiting to the Queen, and lady-in-waiting to the king, prince, princess, lady-in-waiting to the minister, the minister, lady-in-waiting to the ambassador, the ambassador, duke, duchess, count, countess, four subjects, another four subjects, three Calungas, or dolls, (Luis, Leopoldina, Emilia), three female dancers (responsible for the Calungas during the procession), the standard-bearer, a male slave (responsible for carrying the great parasol), the figures of the tiger and the elephant, the guardian of the crown jewels, the herald, the procession majorette, the secretary, the lance-bearers (three boys), three bodyguards, the band (fifteen musicians), twenty caboclos (Brazilian half breed natives - white and native) and twenty baianas (referred to in the last section). The court procession numbered around one hundred and fifty participants.
The orchestra of a nation Maracatu, known as baque virado
1 (a double beat), is made up entirely of percussion instruments, unlike the Orchestra Maracatus, which almost always have one trombone and several wind instruments.

DONA MADALENA  - Queen and Yalorisha2
Photo: Pio Figueiroa
Guerra Peixe, in Maracatus of Recife, describes its batuque - or beat - in the following manner: "the tarol (a type of tambourine) gently announces the very simple rhythmic scheme, with beats, interspersed  with pauses that come almost  at the same instant . A deep, bass drum signals the characteristic rhythm of the maracatu. Following this, it is the turn of the war drums. By this moment, the tarol has finished its initial scheme of variations and from this point on, the zabumbas (bongos) enter the proceedings with their distinct, strong, rhythmic beats. Shortly after this, the meião (a medium sized, deep sounding drum), follows the beat of the leader and together they ring out the peals of the rhythm. The sound increases and intensifies at a tremendous rate, as the entire group breaks into action. At almost the same moment as the final instruments enter, the baianas respond by singing the chorus. The chorus is repeated and the bongos go through a series of variations. This is interrupted each time that the queen (or the director, as in the case of the Crowned Lion Maracatu) sings her/ his solo.


LUIZ DE FRANÇA - Religious leader of  Ifá
Photo: Pio Figueiroa

Once more, the chorus enters and the variations are repeated. Each time this occurs, the intensity increases and the beat accelerates. All of this, in order to compete with the chorus of the baianas and to overpower them.                                              On reaching a musical climax, for some time after, the beat remains with a single beat, increasing violently with each new beat. All at once, the queen's whistle (the queen being responsible for the group) is heard over the beat, warning everybody that the music is coming to an end. Everybody pays very close attention for the second whistle, which will come at the exact finishing moment of the music - the very last note. Suddenly, and with total precision, the whole group halts at the same moment . There is a mute beat - the beat stops".  

DONA ELDA - Queen and Yalorisha2                Photo: Flávia Lacerda

The orchestra of a nation maracatu almost always comprises a deep, bass drum, a tarol (a kind of trombone) two war drums and nine bongos. It is also possible to find a ganzá (a large maraca), and the number of bongos can vary depending on the size, and financial possibilities of the group.
Preserving the entity of the nation, processions of maracatu de baque virado (maracatus with a double beat, as explained above, which only use percussion instruments of African origin) continue to parade through the streets of Recife during carnival, as well as the preceding months leading up to it. The most well-known are :  Nação do Elefante (1800) (The Elephant Nation) , Nação do Leão Coroado (1863) (The Crowned Lion Nation), Nação da Estrela Brilhante (1910) (The Shining Star Nation), Nação do Indiano (1949) (The Indian Nation), Nação Porto Rico (1915) (The Porto Rico Nation), Nação Cambinda Estrela (1953) (The Cambinda
3 Star Nation). There are also numerous other groups that have appeared more recently, in order to preserve the African traditions of their ancestors.

1 See Maracatu Baque Solto for an explanation of the maracatu rhythms.                                                                               
2 The female leaders of the African religions.                       
3 See Maracatu Baque Solto for references to Cambinda.