Congo Female Performers (Photo by Renee A Craft)

Preparing for Local Tourist Presentation

Female Congo Practitioners Preparing to Give Local Tourist Presentation (Photo by Renee A Craft)

Whereas the Congo drama features a full spectrum of characters, tourist presentations are an abbreviated form of the tradition that includes only the drummers, chorus, primary singer, and dancers. Although the Queen, King, Pajarito, or someone standing in for them, may appear in like-local performances, the Devil does not. The drumming and call-and-response singing function as the musical backbone of local and like-local performances, while the social dance component functions as their core. Reminiscent of the local congadas that Congo communities throughout Panama hold every Friday and Saturday evening from January 20 until Lent, each Wednesday and Saturday morning throughout the tourist season the Congos of Portobelo perform like-local congadas for their international visitors.

Excerpted from “Epilogue,” When the Devil Knocks: The Congo Tradition and the Politics of Blackness in 20th Century Panama, The Ohio State University Press (in press)