Lincoln Center Festival - Brazil: Beyond Bossa - The Drums of Bahia - Lactomia & Timbalada
LaGuardia Concert Hall
By Rémie K. Roseman
July 17, 2003
Percussion, Vocals: Jair Rezende
Keyboard, Percussion: Alisson
Quadricano, Effects Set, Alfaias*, Timbanco, Berimbau*: Bolachina
Rubber Nose de Sucata, Effects: Deco
Drum Set, Effects: Edinho
Tin Tímbales*, Alfaias*, Effects Set, Berimbau*: Izaías
Tin Tímbales*, Effects, Vocals: O Morto
Guitar, Percussion: Quiabo Duro
Bucket, Fire Extinguisher, Stove Plate, Bombona, Pandeiro*, Effects: RafaProducer: Marcelo Aue
Vocals: Ninha Brito, Denny, Amanda Santiago
Tímbal*: Beto Radiolla, Danilo, Elton
Bacurinha: Cara de Pizza, Popó
Surdo*: Tata, Zão
Drum Set: Everaldo
Guitars: Jair Soares
Trumpet: Rudney Pett
Trombone: Washington Rezende
Rubber Nose: AbaráProducer: Jose Lorenzo
Manager: Gilson Freitas
New York Debut
*[see selected glossary below]
This was the kind of concert after which one needed to take a shower. The audience danced along with the performers for much of what became a three-hour Bahian celebration at LaGuardia Concert Hall. It started great and only got better.
Once the lights on stage dimmed, Lactomia crept on stage through the darkness, bodies rustling in invisible costumes. As the lights came up, we observed their modern, playful interpretations of African-inspired garb-skirts decorated with colorful buttons, ribbons, silver studs and even CD's which reflected light back onto the audience with movement. The band started their set with an almost theatrical scene, in which the musicians picked up and explored a host of objects functioning as "found instruments" -kids' toys, plastic horns, sheets of metal beaten or strummed with metal tools, a computer keyboard shaken as a ganzá, a rubber tube hit with a shoe, empty plastic barrels/drums, metal cans rattled with a stick. The musical results were mysterious and aurally appealing, with noises developing into more concrete rhythms, then notes and phrases. The group then left their fanciful world and moved to "real" instruments, consisting mainly of Brazilian drums and percussion, as well as a guitar or two. Newly outfitted, the group launched into a body-shaking, foot-tapping piece that made everyone in the audience move.
Lactomia was led by one of the founders, Jair Rezende, whose spiky blonde hair, good looks, and strong talent as a percussionist and band leader, coupled with an appealing singing voice, could position him as a serious Brazilian heartthrob. Rezende was equally successful with different vocal genres, ranging from soulful ballads to quick-talking rap. Lactomia, overall, demonstrated a similar versatility-transitioning from slow, contemplative songs, to frenetic Carnavalesque anthems-and their wide range of talents, not just in their abilities to play many different instruments, but also in their energetic dancing talents and their vocal delivery. Whether they were performing a quiet piece under low lights, or prancing around the stage for a rousing, fast number, the musicians demonstrated great spirit. In fact, a number of audience members were truly inspired by Lactomia's performance, abandoning their seats to be able to dance in the aisles.
During one song, one of the musicians, who had a short lion's mane of dreadlocks pulled back with a headband, mounted a large plastic barrel sitting on its side, and played it as a surdo. He drummed with so much energy and power that the barrel, with him still astride, bounced around the stage, his hair bouncing along with it. In another whimsical interlude, the group abandoned their various drum sets and other instruments, creeping quietly into a circle near the front of the stage, under dimmed lights. There, they picked up various found instruments and played a quiet, almost meditative tune. Another mini-performance piece recalled elements of the hit show "Stomp", with two band members creating interesting sounds by jumping around on empty cans tied to their feet. The eclectic mix of instruments and performance techniques could have proved gimmicky and unpleasant to listen to, but Lactomia's talent instead yielded a clever, entertaining, and ultimately enjoyable concert experience.
Carlinhos Brown, whose "name is considered synonymous with Bahian sound," brought a real treasure to the world when he nurtured this group of street kids into the musical group that he dubbed "Lactomia", a word derived from lacto, referring to milk, and lata, meaning "can". Considering the group boasts members ranging from 7 to 23 years of age (although the traveling troupe appeared to be in their late teens/early twenties), they exhibit enormous talent. The careers of Lactomia as a group, and that of its individual members, have just begun, and the future is bright.
Timbalada, the inspiration for many of the members of Lactomia before that group even existed, turned up the heat and the volume for the second half of the concert. As soon as the musicians came on stage, the audience knew it was going to be entertained, a lot. With many of the all-male members of Timbalada dressed only in white trousers and white body paint tracing out abstract tribal patterns on their torsos, the group set the Carnevale mood without playing a note. When they began to play, we were transported to Salvador. Tímbales and surdos throbbing in intoxicating rhythms set the mood for the only female member of the group, Amanda Santiago, to come on stage and kick off the celebration. Dressed in a Carnevale-like outfit with a low-cut top, short aqua-colored skirt and high, high heels, Santiago demonstrated that she could not only sing well, but dance with expert samba technique and style. She had the whole audience clapping and swaying to her silky voice, backed up by roaring drums. During their first song, Santiago and other members of Timbalada encouraged the audience to participate-to get up and dance, to clap along. It almost felt as if the audience issued a collective sigh (more like shout) of relief-we were having such a hard time sitting, much less sitting still.
Along with the lead singers, the drummers, accompanied by keyboards, brass instruments, and backup vocals, were of course the highlight of the show. The tímbales, bongo-like hand drums that Carlinhos Brown designed, provided the main rhythmic "melody", accompanied by the deep tones of the surdos. The percussionists impressed not only with their musical talents, but also their physical ones, as they jumped, danced, twirled drumsticks between beats, and truly performed. Watching their frenetic movements, one could comprehend why the drummers looked more like athletes and less like stereotypical musicians.
Although most of the songs Timbalada played had a heavy samba-axé component-the main musical forms of Carnevale bands-many songs also demonstrated other diverse stylistic influences, such as salsa-like rhythms and reggae beats. Some songs started (and stayed) fast and furious, and others began in a more contemplative mood, the singer leading with a ballad. Santiago alternated with two other main vocalists, Ninha Brito and Denny, each of whom demonstrated a different style-Brito presenting more of a suave heartthrob persona, and Denny the Carnevale master of ceremonies. Regardless of the tone of the songs, the amount of energy the group conveyed to the audience throughout the performance was amazing.
After Timbalada had already played a long set, Santiago, in very good English, called a special guest on stage-Carlinhos Brown, the father of much of the modern music scene in Bahia these days, and the founder of Timbalada itself. Brown, shirtless and clad in tight, low-waisted white pants, sandals and an elaborate feather headdress, not only got the audience to participate in the performance, but he participated with us. Without wasting any time, Brown ran out into the audience, singing, and traversed his way through many rows of people until he got to the middle of the seats. There, he convinced audience members to link arms and move together, and to sing along with him in Portuguese, even though many of us did not know the language. Young and old, radical or conservative, from many different ethnic backgrounds, we all celebrated life along with him, dancing to the thunder of the drums and the proclamations of the brass, applauding him as he preached about the world's need for peace.
Eventually Brown made his way back to the stage, walking across seats to get there. On his way, he invited an audience member carrying a tímbal to come up and join him for a percussion jam session. The guest was surprisingly skilled and added to the enthusiastic sounds of the band. Timbalada and Brown wrapped up the concert with a series of cross-genre, cross-cultural encore songs, with Brown improvising around the reggae classic, "Get Up, Stand Up," and the popular past hit, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life." Brito showcased Santana's recent hit, "Maria, Maria," followed by Santiago's sultry rendition of Roberta Flack's, "Killing Me Softly." Denny brought the concert back to Brazil with his encore, and the concert ended with the boom of the drums matched only by the roar of applause.
I could not resist buying a CD on my way out, so that I could relive Carnevale any time I wanted to. Sure enough, when I got home, I put on the Timbalada CD and danced around the room.
Excerpted from the Lincoln Center Festival 2003 Complete Program Guide (p. 50)
Instruments (in order of performance listing, above)
Alfaia-A wooden drum covered with an animal skin tied on with cords.
Berimbau-A bow strung backwards; its gourd resonating chamber faces the player's stomach.
Tímbal-A conical-shaped drum from the Bahia region. It is played with both hands.
Pandeiro-A tambourine, originally from East Africa, which is made of goatskin and has five sets of jingles.
Surdo-A drum used frequently in samba schools, samba reggae, and frevo.
Rémie K. Roseman
Vice President, Citi Cards—Citigroup
Focus on strategy development and implementation, global financial services
BA, Yale University
MBA, Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College
MALD, The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy at Tufts University
Amateur singer, student of partner dancing, avid music fan, writer