Tdot Batú burst onto the Toronto Brazilian percussion scene over one year ago with their debut performance at Muhtadi Festival in summer 2013. Since then they have torn up the place and have won a lot of fans for their “Bloco Afro” style percussion group, based on the Salvador da Bahia-originating form that incorporates many surdo bass drums along with thick-sounding snares, high-pitched repenique drums and, by and large, an altogether different groove than (most of) those of the city’s existing samba and maracatu groups.
Now they’re hosting another event in support of an upcoming CD recording project. (Details below.) But before we get to the present, here’s some background.
The group is led by Patricio “Pato” Martinez, who was born and raised in Salvador to Chilean parents, where he learned percussion after becoming fascinated when he heard the drums in the street as a nine-year-old. At 13 years, he began playing with some groups, and from age 14, while living in Rengo, Chile, Pato led and was responsible for that city’s chapter Pacha Batú (“land of the drums” — the organization included blocos in other Chilean cities, which sometimes joined up for larger-scale encounters).
This was all before Pato moved back to Brazil at age 21, where he wasn’t playing music this time, only working. In 2008 he moved to Toronto, where members of his family had lived as early as 2001. Pato missed playing, so he bought a djembe and began to jam out on his own in city parks and on the beach. He also performed as a percussionist with Salviano Pessoa at the first Brazilian Day Canada in 2009 at Yonge-Dundas Square.
But it was at the 2011 Global Marijuana March and rally in Queen’s Park that joined up with a number of local rhythm heads, who invited him to the drum circles they attended and led at various, sometimes secret outdoor locations in the city.
While Pato began to frequent the drum circles, the idea struck him to create a Brazilian percussion group that was different than the ones that existed (and still exist!) in Toronto. He got the drums together and began rehearsing with a core group of 12 members in December 2012.
The group that came to be known as Tdot Batú rehearsed their repertoire months ahead of the group’s debut performance in June 2013, where a Capoeira roda broke out during their set at the Archie Alleyne stage at Muhtadi International Drumming Festival. At the 2014 festival, they were featured on the main stage, along with a dance element provided by Dance Migration Company.
Now with 24 members, Tdot Batú has become a staple of the local Brazilian percussion scene, doubling in membership as well as new rhythms and breaks to the live show repertoire, which now frequently includes a dance component courtesy of Dance Migration dancers as well as guitar by Toronto-based Brazilian artist, singer and percussionist Sandro Liberato. Tdot Batú now covers samba-reggae classics along with the heavy percussion-only beats, breaks and grooves. There’s even been some guest violinist action playing strings solos over the rhythms at certain shows; and a special rhythmic & vocal arrangement of Dawn Penn’s classic reggae jam No No No has become a live staple with vocalists/MCs La Flakah & Yo Dub, whose project Antidoto Reverde, featured on the mic for the tune, invited Tdot Batú to participate on it. Pato and a fourth Tdot Batú member, Pablo, also play in the second group.
Tdot Batú has developed its own style, a friendly, unity-loving crew always smiling and stepping together on stage to create a welcoming vibe for the crowd, and the Tdot Batú crew frequently comes out to events, shows and parties (including Uma Nota events and others, like Dundas West Fest 2014 and Alpha Blondy at Afrofest 2013) with friendly energy and a will to participate, get down and build community.
Highlights of their performances include a spotlight set at Friday Night Live, on the main floor of the Royal Ontario Museum (also with participation from Dance Migration), as part of the Muhtadi Festival-curated “Beats” edition of the popular event.
Other highlights include appearances at festivals like Muhtadi and Afrofest, shows at Lula Lounge and Clave Social on St. Clair; a set at Maracatu Mar Aberto’s 2014 Block Party; street-side presentations at Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market (PSK), jamming there numerous times with Samba Elégua; collaborations with Salviano Pessoa; providing rhythms for Dance Migration’s dance classes; and special guests including Mestre Bola of Capoeira Camara, with whom Pato also plays in the group Bloco Bracatum.
For a late summer jam with reggae, percussion and more reggae, the Tdot Batú crew and Uma Nota have joined together with Lula Music and Arts Centre to present Nice Up Festa.
The night features a stellar Toronto reggae and ska band, The Arsenals, who rocked a great set at the Dundas West Fest in June. Their upbeat reggae jams will lift our souls and bring a sunny state of mind.
On the decks it will be K Zar Dubwise, one of the main cats behind the Dub Connection heavy reggae and dub cuts series and their custom-built soundsystem (which won’t be present at Lula, but the house sound is always great there). And special guests Dance Migration and Capoeira Camara will be in the mix as well.
With Tdot Batú’s emergence on Toronto’s Brazilian music scene, things seem poised for bigger, better booming beats and a flourishing community of rhythm lovers. Tdot Batú brings joy and gives and creates huge amounts of energy, and Toronto is excited to have them.
Nice Up Festa goes down Thursday, August 14 at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W. Doors 9:30 p.m., $10 before 10 p.m.,$15 after that. Proceeds will go toward a professional studio recording for Tdot Batu’s first CD. Facebook event page here. Lula Lounge listing here.