Bahia borders the states of Minas Gerais in the south and Recife to the north. It’s as large as France and geographically varied - ranging from the fertile Atlantic rainforest strip along the coast to the drier dustier interior as you travel west. It encompasses Brazil’s historic city of Salvador (increasingly described as “party central”), as well as some of the best beach locations in the whole of South America. Bahia is often said to be Brazil’s favourite state; enjoying its almost-all-year-round sunshine and experiencing its distinctive culture, it’s easy to see why.
Bahia first began its ascendancy in the 16th century, when Portuguese colonists began to develop the sugar trade. The wealth this created was largely fuelled by slave labour brought over from Africa. The effect has been profound: today its ethnic fabric is largely black (80% Afro-Brazailian descent) and this African infusion has sculpted Bahia's religion, food and especially its blend of music. It's not surprising some of the Brazil’s greatest singers (including Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso and Gal Costa) have emerged from Bahia. Walking through the streets of Salvador it’s hard to avoid troupes of percussion bands and capoeira dancers. The throb of drums could be the heartbeat of Brazil itself.