Maracatu Rural: Improvisation as a Social and Cultural Practice

Stefan Weghuber


Maracatu Rural is a type of folk play with improvised verses performed in northeastern Brasil. Nowadays it has become one of the main attractions of pernambucanian carnival after decades of social struggle for wider national recognition within the context of Afro-Brazilian music. The poets are verbal representatives to outsiders. They have three culturally accepted options to choose from: to improvise freely, chant internalized lines, or combine these two elements. Both improvisation sites and the rhyme schemes affects the poets decision to either prepare or take performance risks (improvise).
The article discusses the close link between the art of improvisation of the poets as social agents and its situational context, depending on the cultural conditions, social position and individual development of each poet. It shows the interdependencies between a local folk play and supra-regional contexts such as the city, the state, the cultural industry or the media.


Verbal improvisation; social practice; performance; rhyme-scheme; unwritten rules; sambada; improvisation duels; performance risks; caboclos de lança; Brazil; pernambuco; Recife; carnival; Maracatu Rural; Maracatu de Baque Solto; Brazilian folk play

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Critical Studies in Improvisation / Études critiques en improvisation is generously supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (through both its Major Collaborative Research Initiatives and Aid to Scholarly Journals programs) and by the University of Guelph Library.
ISSN: 1712-0624