Rhythm heads that we are, we love the big Brazilian drumming groups. The rhythms and the movement of a full ensemble of only drums (and sometimes only drums and vocals) make us move, sweat, dance and go flush in the face with joy.
And many of the people who come across those big drumming groups here in Toronto love the spectacle, too, but sometimes a music fan wants some melody together with the rhythm, and some tunes to hum or sing along with while the drumbeats are pounded out. The combination of a punchy horn line and an infectiously upbeat drum groove, especially when provided by several drummers, translates to exciting live shows and great dancing.
The Brazilians, we know, are huge fans of incorporating a smaller or “pocket” bateria into a larger band format — with guitar, bass, vocals, and often horns and drum kit along with the percussionists — from the bandas in Salvador such as the stage band versions of the famous blocos Afro like Olodum and Timbalada, to manguebeat‘s Nação Zumbi out of Recife and the big bloco shows featuring samba and other rhythms by Monobloco and Bangalafumenga in Rio de Janeiro, and the cultural force that is AfroReggae in that city. (And those are just a few!)
Here in “tropical” Toronto, we have our own growing movement of bands that incorporate smaller versions of the Brazilian drumming troupe.
Now, two of the city’s newest and most cutting-edge bands are teaming up to showcase the bateria-“stage show band” style for the opening night of this year’s Lulaworld festival.
With the musical forms from the Americas and Africa, the music these groups create exudes the sensibility of kids growing up with a world of influence. Together these two bands are creating a new scene in Toronto.
Currently rocking it in a new formation, Mar Aberto SoundSystem layers bass, skankin’ guitars, dubby horns and vocals atop grooves of samba, maracatu and the one drop. Featuring top-drawer additions Tamar Ilana on vocals (of Ventanas, and a frequent guest singer with maracatus Mar Aberto and Baque de Bamba) and Magdalys Sav (Jane Bunnett and Maqueque) on the percuteria, the band blends dub reggae, mento and ska with Brazilian rhythm, cumbia, and carimbó.
But the latest high-energy addition to the movement is T.Dot Sound Crew, a 13-piece outfit drawing on the drummers of Tdot Batú led by Patricio “Pato” Martinez. (And featuring Uma Nota resident General Eclectic on the “stand up” drum kit, along with members of Tdot Batú).
Their sound brings back the Old School Latin Big Tunes, from Fabulosos Cadillacs, Todos Tus Muertos and Autenticos Decadentes, alongside reggae fusion from Skank (Brazilian reggae), Dawn Penn, Bob Marley, along with some Afrobeat from Fela Kuti and amazing cumbia sounds.
The group recently debuted their shows, featuring a fusion of Afro-Brazilian beats with a taste of Latinoamerica sounds, at Tdot’s second anniversary jam. Check the highlight reel:
Now, about the bateria/band concept: this really a new thing? Well, yes and no: The form has been around the city’s Brazilian scene for some time, with acts like Bracatum and stage versions of Batucada Carioca that add in horns, guitar or cavaquinho, and bass over the drumbeats.
But it was a cold winter, and we haven’t heard from many local bands doing this kind of thing for a while.
Yes, we’ve had visits from São Paulo samba master Chocolatte, who, with help from Alan Hetherington, last summer brought a full troupe of samba percussionists along with the musicians playing strings. There’s Baque de Bamba, Aline Morales’ group, who have played several shows over the years with a reduced baque and horns, and that group joined Morales’ band for a final tune when they played Uma Nota’s Hot Spring edition at the Great Hall, and more recently, that group is even mixing up steel pan with maracatu (what!) as well as horns and bass for an upcoming performance at the closing ceremony of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am Games. Samba Squad’s stage show explores all kinds of rhythms and danceable tunes with melodic instruments in the mix. Also, one of the city’s few all-female percussion groups, Primitiva, has in recent shows added bass and flute to the maracatu drums.
And of course, for all those years Uma Nota did it up the Gladstone, Samba Elégua in its Uma Nota Ensemble format rocked it with a reduced percussion corps, arrangements by David Arcus and guests including the Kensington Horns.
Fast forward a few years and the movement continues. Here’s a short taste of Mar Aberto SoundSystem (in its previous formation) the last time the band rocked Lula Lounge.
If you’re ready to go enjoy two bands doing this right here and now, this show is a great place to start. It’s only Tdot Sound Crew’s second show ever, and Mar Aberto SoundSystem’s first big show in the new formation, so get ready to dance as they show off their stuff.
To help with that, you can also check out the stunning dance piece Femenino by Dance Migration, performed as the earlier show on Lulaworld’s opening night, featuring guest Brazilian dance artist Irineu Nogueira and percussionist Alysson Bruno. Then stick around for the live music, because you’re going to want to do a bunch of dancing yourself.
Those horns and that guitar skank, those bass drums rumbling and shakers shaking — when it comes together, it makes for a killer show.
Mar Aberto SoundSystem and Tdot Sound Crew perform as part of Lulaworld Festival 2015, co-presented by Uma Nota, on Wed. May 27 at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W. Doors 9 p.m. $10 advance tickets/$15 at the door. Check out the Facebook event and get your tickets on the Lula Lounge website. (Early show for May 27 is Femenino performed by Dance Migration. Doors 6 p.m., show 7 p.m., advance tickets $20 and you can stay for the live music. Facebook event)