Coco is a dance from the states of Pernambuco, Paraiba and Alagoas in the north-east of Brazil, with various names, depending on each region – Coco de Roda, Coco do Sertão, Coco de Praia, Catolé, Toré, Coco de Umbigada, Coco de Desafio, etc. The Coco de Desafio is the only version that features men. The rest are for both sexes. From the Bantu African side comes the rhythm, based on the use of drums and shakers, and the refrain-verse format. From the native Brazilian side we have the group format, either a line or circle of people.
Again depending on the region, there are various names for its rhythms (Coco de Ganzá, Coco de Zambê and Coco de Mungonguê) and for the way it is sung (Coco Agalopado, Coco de Sétima and Coco de Embolada).
Various theories try to explain its origins. Some say it started in the quilombo dos Palmares, the settlements of runaway slaves in Alagoas. The ex-slaves used coconuts for food as well as creating bowls, spoons, sculptures, etc. While breaking the fruit some would sing while others danced. Others claim it origins with the sugar-cane workers. It reached its height of popularity as a dance during the 1950s, until replaced by samba and the Baião. Although popular throughout the year, it is generally performed at religious festivals, especially in the month of June.
The musical instruments are: Triangle, Ganzá rattle, Surdo drum, the small Zambê drum, the Zabumba bass drum, the Cuíca friction drum, the small wooden Alfaia drum, the Pandeiro tambourine and tamancos. These are sandals made of wood and leather that the dancers use, together with hand-claps, to beat out the rhythm (generally three strong steps with the right foot followed by a weaker one on the left).
Artists such as Flora Mourão, Jackson do Pandeiro, Lula Calixto, Bezerra da Silva, Selma do Coco, Lia de Itamaracá and Zé Neguinho do Coco have incorporated Coco into their repertoire.
Coco is also present in works by Alceu Valença, Gilberto Gil, Gal Costa, Dominguinhos, Sivuca, Zé Ramalho, Renata Arruda, Elba Ramalho, Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, Otto, Silvério Pessoa, Comadre Fulorzinha, Escurinho, Issar França, Cascabulho, Alessandra Leão and Lenine.
Source: David McLoughlin (BM&A)