TUM TUM TUM: Candombe’s Sound of Faith

Rodrigo Lodi

 It’s a strange name, “Tum Tum Tum”. It’s not even a name, actually. It’s an onomatopoeia for the sound of drums. Or the heart. Or faith. 

Candombe is one of the most important religious rituals in Latin America. Not that it has many followers. But mostly because it represents the meeting of the Afro religions brought by the slaves with the Catholic traditions of the Europeans. It is a mixture of spiritual dances, singing and prayers blended together in a ritual developed by the former slaves of Latin America. 

In Brazil, Candombe plays a very special role in small communities of the countryside, especially Minas Gerais and Quilombolas, which both have a high population of descendants of slaves. 

My goal for this project is to reach some of these communities in order do document the rituals and preparations of Candombe, as well as get to know the people who make it happen. 

Left: Painting by Pedro Figari. Right: Photograph by Leandro Coury

It’s Importance

The mixing of Afro religions with the Catholic traditions was never only a matter of founding a new faith. It was a matter of survival for the slaves. Since they could not practice their original faith, African slaves had to characterize them with catholic elements so they would not be punished by their masters. This has had a profound influence on modern religious groups, as well as on the culture and music styles further developed in Brazil. And, unlike other religions developed by former slaves such as Candomblé and Umbanda, Candombe has hardly been documented. To do so is to keep history alive. 

As a result of my recently published book of photography and poetry titled ‘Luas sobre Etiopia’ (inspired by the Easter celebrations in Ethiopia) I have been personally invited to document Candombe and its rituals that mostly happen behind closed doors. Practitioners of the religion hope that this documentation will help preserve the traditions for future generations, shed light on the religion and promote understanding amongst the wider public.