Of music was made the life of percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and music has lined the way to the final farewell to the artist from Pernambuco. The musician—died last Monday (Mar. 7) after battling against a lung cancer for seven months—was buried Thursday morning (Mar. 10), hundreds of artists paid tribute to him going along a path that ran through the streets of Recife to Santo Amaro cemetery.
The final farewell to Naná began already in the Pernambuco Legislative Assembly, where the wake ceremony with the body began Wednesday (Mar. 9) afternoon. In the crowded floor of the House, babalorixá [an Afro-Brazilian religious leader] Raminho de Oxossi, from Olinda town, and Father Francisco Rosendo, of the Cordeiro Catholic Center, gave their blessings.
The prayers were followed by the singing of black women from "Voz Nagô" group, formed by Naná Vasconcelos 8 years ago to open Carnival in Recife—one of the percussionist's several projects that celebrate and atone the Afro-Brazilian culture. "We understand today, more perfectly than ever, that he prepared us to preserve this heritage, a job in which he believed and that he loved, which was music," evaluates Ana Paula Guedes, a member of the group. "He did here everything he had to do, and left a legacy for others to continue making progress," she added.
The maracatu group "Nação Sol Nascente" has also paid tribute to Naná in the funeral procession. With drumming, they paved the way for the fire department's vehicle that took the percussionist's body to the final destination.
As the small crowd proceeded to the cemetery, people came out of buildings, homes, and schools to applaud Naná. Students of a state school waved from windows and more people joined the procession. When turning the corner, at the entrance to Santo Amaro cemetery, there was a deafening beat: a corridor of maracatu groups rhythmically playing together and holding two banners shining under the scorching sun at the entrance of the cemetery.
Naná's wife, Patrícia Vasconcelos, and his daughter, Luz Morena, seemed calm all the time, although visibly touched. "I think this was all he deserved on his land, and I know I will see many tributes yet, because his work has to be preserved. He is reaping what he sowed: love, tenderness, and musicality. That's what people are giving back to him. "
Elected eight times the world's best percussionist by American magazine Down Beat, Naná Vasconcelos established musical partnerships with artists like B. B. King and Ella Fitzgerald.
The percussionist was hospitalized since February 29th. He died after a respiratory arrest, resulted from an advanced-stage lung cancer diagnosed in August last year.
Translated by Amarílis Anchieta