Northeastern culture

The Northeastern culture is composed of the states of Alagoas, Bahia, Ceará, Maranhão, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe and presents great cultural plurality, such as art, architecture, literature, geography, music and cuisine.

The Northeastern culture is quite diverse, since it was influenced by indigenous, African and European people. Customs and traditions often vary from state to state.

As the first region to be effectively colonised by the Portuguese in the 16th century, who encountered the native populations and were accompanied by Africans brought as slaves, the culture of the Northeast is very particular and typical, although extremely varied. It is based on Luso-Brazilian culture, with major African influences, especially on the coast from Pernambuco to Bahia and in Maranhão, and Amerindian influences, especially in the semi-arid hinterland.

The cultural richness of the northeast region is visible beyond its folkloric and popular manifestations.

Northeastern literature has made a great contribution to the Brazilian literary scene, with names such as João Cabral de Melo Neto, José de Alencar, Jorge Amado, Nelson Rodrigues, Rachel de Queiroz, Gregório de Matos, Clarice Lispector, Graciliano Ramos, Ferreira Gullar and Manuel Bandeira, among many others.

In literature, one can mention the popular literature of cordel, which dates back to the colonial period (cordel literature came with the Portuguese and has its origins in the European Middle Ages) and numerous artistic manifestations of a popular nature that are manifested orally, such as the singers of repentes and embolada.

In classical music, composers Alberto Nepomuceno and Paurillo Barroso stand out, as does Liduíno Pitombeira from Ceará today, and Eleazar de Carvalho as a conductor. Northeastern rhythms and melodies have also inspired composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos (whose Bachiana brasileira No. 5, for example, in its second part – Dança do Martelo – alludes to the Cariri hinterland).

In popular music in Northeastern culture, rhythms such as coco, xaxado, hammer agalopado, samba de roda, baião, xote, forró, Axé and frevo stand out, among other rhythms. The Armorial movement in Recife, inspired by Ariano Suassuna, did a scholarly job of valorising this popular rhythmic heritage of the Northeast (one of its best-known exponents is the singer Antônio Nóbrega).

In the dance of Northeastern culture, the maracatu, practised in various parts of the Northeast, the frevo (characteristic of Pernambuco), the bumba-meu-boi, the xaxado, various variants of the forró, the tambor-de-crioula (characteristic of Maranhão), etc. stand out. Folk songs are almost always accompanied by dances.

Handicrafts are also an important part of the culture of the Northeast and are the livelihood of thousands of people throughout the region. Due to the regional variety of handicraft traditions, it is difficult to characterise all of them, but the following stand out: woven hammocks and sometimes embroidered with many details; products made of clay, wood (for example, from the carnauba tree typical of the sertão) and leather, with very particular traits; and lace, which has gained prominence in Ceará handicrafts. Another highlight is the bottles with images made by hand in coloured sand, an item produced for sale to tourists. In Maranhão, handicrafts made from buriti fibre (palm tree) stand out, as well as handicrafts and products from babaçu (palm tree native to Maranhão).