We don’t normally delve into the world of theatre but this foray is entirely related to our extended community, our musical roots, and indeed part of the history of Uma Nota, Toronto and yours truly. In late 2002 I brought the city’s first alfaia (maracatu bass drum) from Brazil and began teaching a few individuals how to play maracatu rhythms in Riverdale Park West.
Not long after, Aline Morales touched down in Toronto and we proceeded to form Maracatu Nunca Antes, North America’s first maracatu. From there the story goes, and suffice to say (and proudly say) that the impact of the group was a great one for many people. Now that impact is being manifested on the stage for the first time in Canada in Maracatu You! as part of this year’s SummerWorks theatre festival in Toronto. It is not to be missed.
The initiative for this project came from Suzanne Roberts Smith, a theatre artist whose experience in Maracatu dates back to the original Nunca Antes crew and who was NOW Magazine’s Fringe 2013 choice for Outstanding Performance & Production for her one-woman show Offensive to Some. Suzanne leads the creative process, acting as playwright, director, and producer, while the cast contributes their own stories and monologues about how they found maracatu and what it means and represents to them.
The superbly magical Aline Morales is the musical director. Brazilian contemporary dancer Amanda Paixão and Candomblé priestess Lucia de Xangô are also featured, alongside members of percussion ensembles Maracatu Baque de Bamba and Maracatu Mar Aberto (the two inheritors of the Nunca Antes legacy).
This goes down on stage at the stunning new Theatre Centre (formerly the Carnegie Library), a unique location for a “different kind” of theatre piece, one with a cast of mostly non-theatre professionals and which attempts to deal with some highly charged issue of modernity in a traditional cultural manifestation. This represents a delicate balance between joy, history, spirituality, redemption, and liberation, all calibrated with the inherent problems of privilege, identity, colonialism, and modernity. Let’s see how it “plays” out!
Creator, director, and performer Suzanne Roberts Smith and Candomblé priestess Lucia de Xango
“Maracatu You! is a show that anyone who loves music- or anyone who calls themselves a citizen of Toronto or the world- must see, because it tells the story of finding hope and salvation through art and community,” says Lani Milstein, ethnomusicologist and theatre producer who is also a featured performer in the show.
“It’s full of soul-blasting music, haunting dance, powerful ritual, and true stories from right here in Toronto. We can’t wait to show audiences how a truly diverse group- bankers, lawyers, civil servants, teachers- from literally all over the world, have formed a Toronto family by celebrating a ritual that stems from a 17th-Century carnival tradition from Northeastern Brazil.”
Maracatu Nunca Antes at Dundas Square in 2004.
Maracatu You! opens Saturday August 9th and runs until August 17th. For more info, times and tickets visit the Facebook event page. To donate to the project and help support the lovely cast and crew be sure to check out their indiegogo campaign. Also check out the video below. Although the music is more from the ijexá rhythm and afoxé line rather than maracatu, they are related, the video is truly inspiring and you can feel the magic that is sure to come out in the performance.