One of South America's oldest and most tortured Indian tribes - the Bororo - have turned their enchanting funeral ceremony into a record called "Bororo Live."
With complex chants played to the beat of instruments such as Aije Acos, Bapos and Ikas, the record does not threaten to unseat any of Billboard Magazine's Top 10, but it could expose the public to a remote tribe that for centuries was misunderstood and slaughtered by settlers. It could also provide a small source of income for the impoverished people of the Bororo.The Bororo, who are close to extinction after centuries of resisting civilization, live in five small villages on a reservation in Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, about 1,200 miles northwest of Sao Paulo. The approximately 770 tribe members who are left largely keep to themselves.
While anthropologists have studied their ways for years, little about their lifestyle has been made public.
Although a Bororo funeral ceremony can often last two months, the tribe managed to condense the best parts into one album of songs and chants. The first 2,000 records were released at a price of about $18 each.
"It is mostly a collection of songs, all from the funeral dances," said Joana Fernandes Silva, an anthropologist from the Federal University of Mato Grosso, who helped produce and supervise the recording.
Aside from giving their consent, the Bororo did little in the production area of the record. The university is marketing it, but the profits will all go to the tribe, Silva said.
The idea for the record came about when two free-lance photographers, Valdir Pina and Kim Ir-Sem, tried to film a video of the Bororo several years ago.
Silva said the Bororo were not too thrilled about the idea of filming a video, but they loved the chance to make a record.
If there is any modern appliance in a Bororo home, she said, it is a rec-ord player.
She said the record, which Kim and Pina helped produce, is the first to record the Bororo ceremonies, but that a little-known documentary film was produced in the 1950s by the Brazilian anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro.
"The Bororo are still rebuilding after going through years of hard times," Silva said. "They keep to themselves and they have peaceful relations with surrounding villages.
"They live in circular villages, in huts made of palm frongs. They catch fish, and they farm and collect wild fruit."
Archaeologists who have examined rock paintings and other relics estimate the Bororo have lived in the region for some 8,000 years.
In the 18th century, when European settlers first began venturing into the area, the Bororo occupied virtually all of what is now the states of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul, as well as part of Bolivia.
Unlike some tribes that adapted well to civlization, the Bororo resisted the migration of the settlers. As a result, thousands were massacred. In the years between 1929 and 1935 alone, the already-depleted population of the Bororo decreased from 8,000 people to 1,000.
In 1936 they signed a peace treaty with Brazil and have maintained their autonomous reservation ever since.
Silva said the record would not be sold in music stores initially but that the university would wait and see how quickly the first 2,000 sell before making more and expanding sales. Sequels might also be in the making.