Congadas are dramatic acts with influences from Iberian Catholicism which focus on the traditions, practices and customs of Angola and the Congo. A representation of a cortejo real and an embaixada, these performances are carried out during Christmastime and on Three Kings' Day, or during celebrations for Our Lady of the Rosary, Saint Benedict and the Holy Spirit.
As a performance-musical ceremony, the staging is reminiscent of the crowning of the King of the Congo and Queen Njinga of Angola, with the presence of a court and their vassals. The congo element celebrates the struggle of black African peoples, while the embaixada element is generally inspired by struggles between Christians and Moors.
The congada repertoire is made up of songs (mainly marching chants) that are sung during the procession, Catholic or African religious praises, and, sometimes, working songs, which are accompanied by a dramatic expression of the staged texts. The music is played by a banda-de-congo, with drums, caixas, tambourines, casacas, several types of rattles and violas.
The congado in Minas Gerais is clearly linked to ancestors from Bantu-origin African cultures. In this tradition, one can find complementary elements and rituals that make up the full congado: candombe, guarda de moçambique and congo.
Candombe uses ancestral drums that are also called candombes. These long instruments are cared out of tree trunks and have leather attached to one end; they come in three different varieties (low, medium, high, all similar in size but with different widths). To these drums, one can add the puíta (cuíca) and the guaia (chocalho, like a caxixi).
The moçambique provides the music for the procession element and is made up of three caixas, which are cylindrical drums with leather on both ends, patangomes, idiophones made from wide cans with two handles on the side which are then filled with seeds, and, finally gungas, rattles made of small cans which are attached to the ankles.
The congo is the more diverse musical part and can include a wide range of percussive and melodic instruments, such as the caixa, thetamboril, the reco-reco, the pandeiro, the chocalho and even the sanfona, the cavaquinho and the rabeca.