Snap Shot Brazil: Rocking The Cradle Of Carnaval


8. Rio, more Surdos.


9. Caixa player in Rio.

Maracatu In Recife

If you have time, head even farther north to Recife or Olinda in Pernambuco State where another infectious style awaits – maracatu. Originally the music for the processions of the kings, known as Reis do Congo (King Of The Congo), which, like its cousin samba, is loud, raucous, played by large groups in the street, and rhythmically complex. Baroque costuming and use of black paint on participants’ faces seem to re-enact the history and tension that exist in a region as culturally diverse as Northeastern Brazil. Here the metal surdos of the south give way to the rope-tuned wooden alfaias which anchor the maracatu ensembles with such a thick layer of bass you could build a house on it. A typical maracatu group is composed of alfaia (bass drum), gongue (bell), tarol (snare drum), and agbe (shaker).

To get a feel for how indigenous rhythms from Recife can merge with contemporary music, look no further than Recife’s foremost percussionist NanĂ¡ Vasconcelos, who’s work with Pat Metheny and Don Cherry put this region’s rhythms on the musical map. If you are in Recife you will want to look up Mestre Jorge Martins and his school Grupocorpos for an insider’s view of Maracatu. You can also search Maracatu on Facebook, which brings up a whole string of groups, many of which are in Pernambuco. A “Like” on a group’s page, is a great way to support them and make contacts for future travel. Closer to home, maracatu ensembles are popping up in Europe and North America. If you’re in the New York area look up Scott Kettner, who’s group Nation Beat will be touring this summer with Estrella Brilhante, the largest and most famous Maracatu nation in Ricife.


10. Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro


11. Carnaval in Rio.

It All Starts At Home

Whether or not you’re able to fly south for carnaval, preparation begins at home and there are numerous resources to help you find your ginga. Most urban areas have samba ensembles. Portland, Oregon, alone has half a dozen, and the pooling of resources in larger groups has brought guest instructors like Dudu Fuentes and Nininho de Olinda to many cities in North America. Additionally, masters like Jorge Alabe, Carlinhos Pandeiro, Marcio Peeter, and Wagner Preto all reside in the States and are available for workshops. And finally, American percussionists like Chalo Eduardo, Michael Spiro, and Mark Lamson (and many, many others) have dedicated their lives to these instruments, and they’re fanned out across the country teaching and performing.

Consider going to California Brazil Camp held each summer in the woods in Cazadero, California – where registration for their August 2013 camps has already begun.( Also be sure to visit, which is a database with contact information for samba groups all over the globe. And last but not least, treat yourself to a YouTube marathon by looking up the many rhythms, groups, styles, artists, and instruments littered throughout the preceding paragraphs.

Go ahead and dust off your hammock, pack your best futebol warm-up suit and green Adidas Samba kicks, and head for the drummer’s hang of a lifetime! But whatever you do while in Brazil, don’t forget to visit the beautiful white sandy beach of Copacabana, just a short ride from the center of Rio. Only there can you pay homage to the place where music and passion are always in fashion at the Co-pa! Uh oh, did we really just leave you with that tune in your head?

Brad Boynton is Owner of Rhythm Traders in Portland, Oregon. Brian L. Davis is a member of Pink Martini and instructor at California Brazil Camp (CBC).

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