Lúcia Gaspar
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Luiz Gonzaga

Xaxado é dança macha (Xaxado is a macho dance)
Dos cabra de Lampião (Of the gang of Lampião)
Xaxado, xaxado, xaxado
Vem lá do sertão (Comes all the way from the semi-arid region)

Xaxado, meu bem, xaxado (Xaxado, my dear, xaxado)
Xaxado vem do sertão (Xaxado comes from the semi-arid region)
É dança dos cangaceiros (It’s the dance of the cangaceiros)
Dos cabras de Lampião (Of the gang of Lampião)

Quando eu entro no xaxado (When I start xaxado)
Ai meu Deus (Oh my God)
Eu num paro não (I don’t stop)
Xaxado é dança macha
Primo do baião (Cousin of baião).


According to folklorist Roberto Benjamin, ‘xaxado’ is a rhythm and a dance from the semi-arid region (‘sertão’), with characteristics evident from indigenous cultures from the regions of Pajeú and Moxotó (Pernambuco).

There is controversy, however, about the origin of ‘xaxado’. Some researchers, such as Benjamin and Luís da Câmara Cascudo, assert that it is a dance originating from the high ‘sertão’ of Pernambuco, others say it originated in Portugal, while still others still claim it has indigenous origins.

Research indicates that dance was already known in the Pernambuco ‘Agreste’ and ‘Sertão’ in 1922. 

The word ‘xaxado’ is an onomatopoeia of the ‘xa-xa-xa’ noise that the dancers make as their ‘alpercatas’ (a type of sandal – espadrille) drag on the floor during the dance.

The dance is performed in a circle, with the dancers standing one behind another, without spinning, each participant making three or four lateral movements with their right foot in front, dragging the left, in a type of fast tap-dance.

In the old days, it was an exclusively masculine dance which was spread throughout the Northeast by Lampião and his band, which is why it became associated to the ‘Cangaço’ Cycle. The ‘cangaceiros’ (Northeast outlaws) used the dance as a type of war cry or to celebrate victories. The rifles replaced women.  As the singer and composer Luiz Gonzaga, one of the great exponents of ‘xaxado’, said: “The rifle is the lady.”

Originally ‘xaxado’ was not accompanied by instruments. There was only singing, in verses and a refrain, the dragging of the ‘alpercatas’, and the beat was marked by banging the rifle butt on the ground. The song lyrics were always aggressive and satirical, the reason Câmara Cascudo considered ‘xaxado’ a variant of ‘Parraxaxá’, a song of insult by the ‘cangaceiros’ performed in the intervals between the firing of their rifles against the police:


Eu não respeito poliça (I don’t respect the police)
Soldado nunca foi gente (A soldier was never a person)
Espero morrer de velho (I hope to die an old man)
Dando carreira em tenente (Making the lieutenant run away)

Aí moleque Higino (Hey, Higino, you bastard)
Só tenho pra te dá: (I only have to give you:)
A bala do meu rifle, (The bullet from my rifle)
A ponta do meu punhá! (The point of my fist).

Nowadays the dance is no longer exclusively masculine, being danced in pairs. The costumes of the groups show its origins, as the dancers dress as ‘cangaceiros’ and ‘cangaceiras’ (female ‘cangaceiros’). Mostly, however, only the men carry rifles. They are accompanied by fifes, bass drums, triangles and accordions.

It has also been widely spread by regional groups from Paraíba, which has lead to the creation of an undoubtedly Paraíba expression of ‘xaxado’.

Today ‘xaxado’ is only seen in stylised choreographies of artistic groups who perform mainly at the June festivals, executed basically in two rows, one male and the other female. The dancers spin, dance together or separately, always dragging their ‘alpercatas’ on the ground.

Recife, 30 April 2010.
Translated by Peter Leamy, March 2011.
Updated on 20 june 2018.






BENJAMIN, Roberto. Xaxado. In: ______. Folguedos e danças de Pernambuco. Recife: Fundação de Cultura Cidade do Recife, 1989. p. 100-103.

CASCUDO, Luís da Câmara. Xaxado. In: FOLCLORE. Recife: Secretaria de Educação e Cultura, 1975. p. 43.

FERRAZ, Marilourdes. O canto do acauã. Belém: [s.n.], 1978.

O QUE é xaxado? Disponível em: <http://baby-fazendodiferenca.blogspot.com/2007/10/o-que-xaxado.html>. Acesso em: 29 abr. 2010.

SOUTO MAIOR, Mário; LÓSSIO, Rúbia. Dicionário de folclore para estudantes. Recife: Fundaj, Ed. Massangana, 2004.

XAXADO. Disponível em: <http://www.memorialpernambuco.com.br/memorial/paginas/folclore/6folclore_outros.htm>. Acesso em: 28 abr. 2010.

XAXADO. Disponível em: <http://www.brasilfolclore.hpg.ig.com.br/xaxado.htm>. Acesso em: 27 abr. 2010.






Source: GASPAR, Lúcia. Xaxado. Pesquisa Escolar On-Line, Joaquim Nabuco Foudation, Recife. Available at: <http://basilio.fundaj.gov.br/pesquisaescolar/>. Accessed: day month year. Exemple: 6 Aug. 2009.


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