Bira Santos, musician, composer, percussionist, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Bira Santos grew up in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil in the religious tradition of candomblé. His mother was a high priestess (Mãe de Santo) in the religion and he himself was initiated into the religion more than 20 years ago. He is currently the head musician, or Alabé, at his candomblé house, Ilê Axé Omim J’Oba. The term “alabé” means that he has achieved the highest level in drumming and leading of rituals in the candomblé religion and signifies deep experience and authority.

Candomblé is an Afro-Brazilian religion that originated in Salvador that is closely related to the west african Yoruba tradition, but a tradition of its own. The ritualistic ceremonies contain highly percussive drumming, songs, and dance that have shaped the musical soundscape of Brazil, influencing many contemporary styles such as samba and bossa nova. The music, dances, and deity (Orixá) names have become woven into the very fabric of Bahian and Brazilian culture and have become a part of the mainstream culture there.

In addition to being recognized as an expert within the Candomblé community, Bira is also recognized both regionally and internationally, frequently being called upon to for print and television interviews, as well as to assist in documentaries on the subject. He will often not only play for the documentaries, but also assist with production for domestic and international film crews. Many professional international musicians list Bira as their instructor on their bios.

In addition to his many duties as an alabé, Bira is the Director of Music at the Diaspora Art Center and has a regular teaching schedule as a percussion instructor, teaching both private and group classes and workshops. He also a composing and performing musician — having composed the music for a number of documentaries and CDs and regularly plays shows with his band, Afro Mestiço, and other bands.


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Technical Coursework

  • Musicology course with well-known Brazilian composer and musician, Bira Reis. 2010 for 3 weeks
  • Extension course in music at UFBA (Federal University of Bahia). 2004 for one month
  • Course intensive in percussion with professor Bira Monteiro at Escola de Dança (school of dance) – the pre-professional dance school in Salvador. 2002 for 2 months
  • Preparatory course for management of a social good program, PETI (project to end child labor) – project name Axe. 2002 for one week
  • Course in percussion with professor Macambira. 2000 for 6 months

Professional Work Experience

  • Percussion instructor for specialty courses at Escola de Investigação Musical Bira Reis. 2013 to present
  • Musical director and founder of the group Afro Mestiço. 2005 to present
  • Musical director and percussion instructor at Associação Artística e Cultural Diáspora (Diáspora Art Center), Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. 2000 to present
  • Percussionist for African dance classes from 2000 to present for the following professors and instructors:
  • Musical director for the Diáspora Cia Baiana de Dança in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. 1998 to present
  • Designed and delivered various percussion workshops with foreign groups from France, Japan, the United States, Denmark, and Italy. 1998 to present
  • Musical director for Afoxé Ayralogun, a bloco on the Pelourinho Carnaval circuit. February 2018
  • Designed and delivered three-day workshop Sacred Rhythms of Candomblé, Caixa Cultural, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. November 2017
  • Led workshop Sacred Rhythms of Candomblé. University of Feira de Santa. Bahia, Brazil. May 2017
  • Performed music therapy as part of a day-long workshop with professor Annette in Arembepe, Bahia, Brazil. December 2015
  • Percussion workshops for Colegio Kolping in the interior of the state of Bahia in both the cities of Ribeira do Pombal and Cipo in 2012
  • Musician for a folkloric dance diaspora group. Latin America International Tourism Fair. Buenos Aires, Argentina. 2011
  • Monitor for PETI project (Project for the Eradication of Child Labor) — Associação Artística e Cultural Diáspora. 2002 for one year
  • Percussion instructor for the project Koinonia – Territórios Negros in the community of the candomblé terreiro Ilê Axé Omim J’Oba. 2001 for 8 months


Composer and director for 5 CDs. 2002 to 2015.

Participated in various recordings of CDs with national and international artists, including:

  • Jochen Eisentraut – Ritmeloxa (2014)
  • Andrew Scott Potter, Edi Machado, Jack Joao Potter – Jazz Standards / Afro Bahian Rhythms (2011)
  • Musiques Racines (2002)
  • Recorded with well-known Brazilian actress and singer Mariana de Moraes on her CD Desejo. (Songs: A Mae d’agua e a menina and Taboo)
  • Recorded with singers Ju Moraes and Carlinhos Brown on the musical DVD Colar de Guia

Documentaries and Interviews

  • Took part in the recording of a Candomblé documentary under the direction of Nem Brito. No title available at this time. January 30, 2016
  • Entremundos. Documentary from a “Artisans of Bahian Culture” series done by TV Brasil discussing the production and use of handmade drums and other local instruments from West Africa used in candomblé and Afro-Brazilian music. 2013
  • Television interview talking about the work of his musical group Afro Mestiço. 2010.
  • (Dis)location. Musician for documentary. 2009
  • Recorded the DVD Toques e Danças dos Orixás (Rhythms and dances of the Orixás). 2006/ 2007
  • Nexgeneration magazine. Interview. 2005
  • Agogo Magazine. Interview in the Dutch magazine Agogo discussing playing candomble rhythms. 2003
  • Candomblé and Catholicism in Brazil, Africa, and Cuba. Producer for the directors from New York (USA) (specific documentary name forthcoming)