The Mehinacu Of Xinga River

Transmission date: November 1974

On the Xingu River in central Brazil, bordering on the Amazonian forest, live a group of roughly 70 Arawak-speaking Indians, the Mehinacu. They inhabit, along with other Amerindian groups, the federal reserve that was established for them in 1961. Like their neighbours, the Mehinacu are hunters, gatherers, fishermen and ‘slash-and-burn’ farmers. After 3 or 4 years, when the soil has been exhausted in a particular area, the group moves on to make another clearing in which they plant manioc, an essential part of their diet. When the film was made, the Mehinacu way of life was threatened by a plan to build a highway through the region.

Music is not really autonomous, being always related to ritual and ceremonial activity. The most important of these is a ritual held after harvesting for the spirits of the poqui fruit. It must be performed to ensure the success of the following year’s crop. The whole ritual lasts a month and the music heard here is of the numerous ceremonies, some lasting several days, which form a part of the ritual.

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