Tia Ciata

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Tia Ciata was a woman from Bahia who had a fundamental role in the birth of Cariocan urban samba as a genre. An active practitioner of the culture of her homeland, she developed an informal cultural center…
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Tia Ciata was a woman from Bahia who had a fundamental role in the birth of Cariocan urban samba as a genre. An active practitioner of the culture of her homeland, she developed an informal cultural center at her home, where she would initiate the biggest composers and musicians of Rio de Janeiro of her time into the subtleties of samba from Bahia. As a result of this, in 1917, the first samba to be recorded, "Pelo Telefone," was a collective composition done in her house, in which she herself participated, along with other regulars João da Mata, Mestre Germano, Hilário Jovino Ferreira, Sinhô, and Donga. The lyrics were by Mauro de Almeida, the use of the folk song "Rolinha" in the first stanza by Didi da Gracinda. Tia Ciata, aka Tia Assiata, came to Rio, arriving from Bahia around 1875. She resided in two other places before settling, around 1899, in the historic house at 117 Visconde de Itaúna street, near Praça Onze. During the day she would sell tidbits downtown, and at night she would reign in her home as an organizer of meetings for black townspeople. In the folk-magic religion known as Candomblé, Tia Ciata was a kind of head, the babalaô-omin. In that capacity, she would hold worship rituals in her residence dedicated to the African orixás. It is important to note that, in that period, there were no public places for the poor or black inhabitants to socialize. So the meeting places of these segments of society were essentially family homes. Tia Ciata's house became legendary because not only she would hold regular Candomblé sessions, but also because these sessions were followed by a samba, a kind of party where people could drink, eat, play, dance to music, meet each other, and form romantic couples. In fact, as the sambas were persecuted by police, they were frequently disguised as religious activities. So, in these festive reunions, Tia Ciata's house became widely known in Rio. Not only the black people, but also politicians, Bohemians, musicians, and batuqueiros (percussionists) would gather there, attracted by her excellent culinary skills and the music. The parties could last for several days in a row, and people would spend the entire time there without returning to their homes until the feast was over. The cultural exchange was the central focus in Tia Ciata's house. Being a precursor of the migratory movements of blacks arriving from Bahia to Rio with the end of slavery (1888, five years after her arrival) and the massive demobilization, in 1897, of the troops of Baianos engaged in the fight against the fanatic religious leader Antônio Conselheiro, Tia Ciata was on the verge of a movement which would deeply influence the national culture via its ascendacy over the important capital, Rio de Janeiro. She herself was a tap-dancer in the best tradition of folk samba from Bahia, and she would make a point to initiate the Cariocas in those mysteries. And in fact she succeeded in that, as the most important composers and musicians of the time, like Caninha, João da Baiana, Donga, Pixinguinha, Sinhô, and Heitor dos Prazeres, along with less representative names like João da Mata, Mestre Germano, Minan, Didi da Gracinda, and João Câncio were regulars at her house. Disciples that continued her work were her son Eduardo da Tia Ciata, her granddaughters Lili da Tia Ciata (who became the porta-estandarte of the rancho Macaco é Outro) and Tia Cincinha, her grandson Buci Moreira, Ministrinho da Cuíca, Dino, and Santa, among others. Tia Ciata also directed the rancho Rosa Branca, which played during Carnival with its Pastoras. In that close net interlacing Baianos and Cariocas, Tia Ciata was the most important Tia (auntie) from Bahia, sharing with her townswomen Tia Dadá (dweller of Rio's borough Saúde) and Tia Bebiana (who lived in the Largo de São Domingos) the honors of keeping true cultural centers that introduced the Cariocas to the culture from Bahia.