Beautiful Beat: Brazil’s Batuka! Brasil Is Back Bolder and Broader than Before

US drummer Zoro Since its 1st edition, in 1996, the Batuka! Brasil took place every year until 2005. Those were ten intense editions, with shows, workshops, performances and lectures as well as the National Drummers Contest, revealing new Brazilian talents and mapping the Brazilian culture by the participation of finalists from all over the country.

In 2009, the event, after a break, came roaring back for its 11th edition. In the festival, the interchange among musicians from all over Brazil and abroad has always been primordial. The orgaziners believe that from this cultural mix comes the real importance of the Batuka! Brasil. The reunion, they say, builds the union.

The Batuka! Brasil was approved by the Lei Rouanet (a Brazilian cultural incentive law) so, with this backing, it had the opportunity of making the festival in the way it was dreamed.  During the 3 years without the festival, its creators worked hard towards acquiring the necessary resources to use the benefits of the law, but despite great commendations they were not able to get sponsors.

Batuka! Brasil 2009 was a return to the roots. The festival took place in July the 18th and 19th at the Auditório Ibirapuera, one of São Paulo's most important cultural centers. The partnership with the Auditório Ibirapuera as well as its structure, the technical crew and the artist's choice, were all fundamental to the make the Batuka! Brasil 2009.  

The stage full of instruments, the sound and lights checked, and crew in position. Vera Figueiredo, the festival's creator steps-up in the stage and makes the Batuka Brasil 2009's opening by calling the first attraction.

Maestro Zoro has his own signature beat. An educator and a master of Funk and R&B, he saluted the audience by playing classics of these styles in his performances on July's 18th and 19th.  The repertoire ranged from James Brown's Cold Sweat, Stevie Wonder's Superstition, Earth Wind & Fire's In The Stone, Toto's Rosana, to even a Michael Jackson's tribute by playing Shake Your Body Down To The Ground.

The tunes performed were the remastered originals. Zoro's grooves were not only hi hats, snare and kick combinations but incorporated other drums as well as his unique fills. It is so hard to bring to the reader an understanding of Zoro's fills just with words.

He used no earphones but two monitors and a subwoofer and his iPod because he prefers a full bodied sound with a low frequency enhancement, a fundamental issue to his performance. 

Zoro is the groove, the authority on the subject. He is the personification of power and played with such a great amount of it causing a great deal of excitation by his notes hitting peoples' chests. You could hear the crowd screamming! The missionary of the R&B commandments gives a smiling recommendation: To feel the groove, just eat bananas every day and you will find it!


In the year 2003, Gabriel Martins, the wonder kid drummer from Cubatão, in the state of São Paulo, won by unanimity the 1st Batukinha!, the National Drummers Contest's under 13 category. He was only 11. 

His performance as guest artist in the Batuka! Brasil 2009, showed his improvements and how he became a top drummer at only 16 years old. Even at the sound check he was applauded by Clayton Cameron and Zoro. Gabriel is the living proof that the National Drummers Contest reveals the talents and looks after their careers. 

At the Batuka! Brasil 2009, Gabriel played "Fragmento", by Junior Vargas, the very sound with he conquered the Batuka! 2003. Using anear phone, an iPod and two monitors he also played tunes from Dave Weckl and Dennis Chambers, worldwide acknowledged drummers and two of his main influences.

Gabriel is illuminated and has a natural gift. As Dom Famularo wrote; "I had participated in drum events all over the world. The most unforgettable of all was the Batuka! contest in Brazil.  While watching Gabriel play, I heard Mother Nature speaking by the drums. Gabriel played in a natural way, with all his heart. All the drummers impressed me and to choose one was not an easy task but Gabriel was special, he had something else."


The National Drummers Contest is an important side of the Batuka! Brasil. It promotes the reunion of world drum icons, unquestionable talents, Brazilian musicians and contestants at the same stage.  The last ones also bring the Brazilian musical diversity by their regional influences and help building Brazilian Cultural History. 

This year, after the fulfillment of the requirements four finalists were selected: Darlan Marley from Natal (Rio Grande do Norte state), í‰der Medeiros from Tubarão (Santa Catarina), Isaí­as Alves from São Luis (Maranhão) and Viní­cius Lordellos, from Santa Catarina, but living currently in Londrina (Paraná).

These four talented artists who became brothers in arms, challenged their music and were evaluated by the Americans Clayton Cameron, Joshua Dekaney and Zoro, and the Brazilians Daniel Gohn and Dinho Gonçalves.

The contenders performed each one a tune from their own choice, a free solo and a music chosen by the festival; this year the "Passo de Anjo" by  Spok and João Lira in a drum less recording of the Spok Frevo Orchestra which has the drummer Adelson Lima on its original version. The evaluated items were technique, solo/improvisational skills musicianship and creativity. All drummers used an ear phone, two monitors and an iPod with the tunes.


The 2009 National Drummers Contest winner – by unanimity – was Isaí­as Alves, from Maranhão. He began with his tune of choice, "Fogueira" Tambor de Crioula. In his solo – by the way, a very creative one – he showed, in a very musical way, how technique and speed can be used to support the music. By playing melodies, with his well tuned agogôs, Isaias showed his very rooted approach when performing the Tambor de Crioula and Bumba Meu Boi grooves.  He also got a standing ovation for his performance in the tune "Passo de Anjo" in such a magical way.  It was a mix of commotion and celebration. 

The Prizes? More than prizes  – not "only" a Ludwig full drumset, a Sabian cymbal set, an Evans set of drumheads and an Audix microphone kit but the conquest of the crowd's recognition and of course a great dose of happiness.


After the contest, professor Daniel Oliveira went up to the stage and performed a solo. He is that kind of drummer who brings to the stage, lots of information in a clear and well organized way.

Eight notes, sixteenth notes, thirty second notes, rests, rudiments, expression signs polyrhythm, displacements, syncopations, dynamics… All covered by his performance, not only in the solo, but in the tunes as well.    

Daniel Oliveira toyed with the technique, which he has so much, in a very natural way and played two tunes. One of them, Pedra Sabão is a mandolin solo from Hamilton de Holanda. But, by playing drums in a classic by the Argentinean Astor Piazzolla "The New Tango", Daniel brought the tango to the contemporary world, once it has no drums as one of its instruments. This way he elevated the art form of playing drums to a higher intellectual point. 
Daniel used an earphone, two monitors and an iPod. His performance at the Batuka! Brasil 2009 was sponsored by Evans, Sabian, Audix, Hudson Music and the IBVF.


Júlio, the captain stepped up the stage playing a solo in his calfskin headed pandeiro. Along with loops from a Boss Loop Station RC – 20xl, he brought a whole Brazilian Escola de Samba to the stage!

This pedal allows him to record each instrument separately so, this way, Júlio presented to the audience, the Escola de Samba; a piece at the time started with the surdo (low drum), followed by the caixa (snare drum), the repinique, the agogô, the cuí­ca, the tantan, the nylon pandeiro, the repinique de anel, and the frigideira (frying pan). To get a good feedback on the "band" Júlio used amplified earphones.

Júlio's music pulses, moves, swings… And what a ginga (term used for "Brazilian swing")!  After that, he invited his group, now with actual people, to the stage. Rafael Castro, Alan, Douglas Germano, Café and Marcelo made a groovy entrance with surdo de primeira, surdo de corte, two snare drums, a tamborim and a repinique. On the calls they traded solos and with a special mention to pandeiro's by Master Café.

Júlio made an awesome display of musicianship while playing with the frigideira as well as the exquisite melody with the 4 bells agogô. All of this followed by a standing ovation and an illustrious presence in the audience, the master Osvaldinho da Cuí­ca. 


Does anybody have any doubt on the existence of an expressive spot for the brushes in the music world?  Clayton Cameron carved this place!

Can you close your eyes and imagine a sound of a wash machine, or the late great Sammy Davis Jr. tap dancing, Gregory Hynes, Sandman Sims or even all of them jamming?

Clayton Cameron is a genius who do it all with only a snare drum and a pair of brushes. Not only magical and well explored brushes, but magical hands, brains and heart.  The swing? Are you kidding me?

To obtain the various sounds, Clayton, besides the fact of carefully choosing every pair of brushes, he uses from the tip of the wires to the ring at the back end. The audience in disbelief used to ask: can it really be?  

Who could play with Clayton?

At the 17th they had their first and only rehearsal and two native virtuoso jazz players… Latino blooded! The names? Chico Wilcox on the bass and Erik Escobar on the piano; Done! They might had already met in some other sphere. This way gave the stage in the 18th Batuka! a good shake… Batuka! Brasil!

Before the end with the trio Clayton went to the snare drums apart from the kit and jammed with Júlio César playing the cuí­ca.


The tabla is a beautiful sounding and very peculiar instrument and enhances the curiosity as Edgar Silva's who studies it along with the whole Indian music for more than twenty years. 

Edgar's music cadence reflects his own way of communicating. With a low voice and attentive look he brought the audience to the India, by his music and by this instrument's history on both the religious and popular aspects. 

Edgar played with the help of a Tala Machine, which keeps the harmonic backing so the tabla player can improvise. He also presented the Indian music's rhythmic syllables.


She is guts, heart, sensitivity and full of passion for her art. Her music comes with power and tradition. This is Vera, a Brazilian soul!

Travelled Brazil by playing her 3rd album tunes: "Mr. Banana", Vera Cruz Island, Devagar, Deep Inside and Reaching Another Day. While performing with the virtuosos Chico Willcox (baixo), Beto Corrêa (keyboard and piano) and Fábio Gouvêa (flute and guitar), we could visualize Brazilian rainforest's scenes… The natives were there!

Vera recreated both a maracatu group and a escola de samba. You may ask, what originality it can have? This has a very simple answer: She knows what and where to play in her own personal way. Check out the drum tunning and their intervals… What a cymbal sound! Just incredible! She also amazes with the double pedal and the repinique. The result? Vera and her quartet heated up that cold july 19th night by playing Billie Jean as homage to the late Michael Jackson and of course, received a standing ovation!


Professors Edinei Lima, Felipe Veiga and Daniel Gohn performed on  Sunday, July the 19th.  The group that has the percussion as something beyond the accompaniment was formed in 2002. With its own compositions Tribores bring the classical and popular music close together. 

They started the show with synchronized snare drum solos that went to alfaias with an accompaniment in tamborims in stands playing an authentic maracatú. Scottish pipe band snare drums along with surdo, ripinique and cymbals were also used along with a great deal of interaction with the audience. 

Not only by the great percussion diversity, but by its inspired performance Tribores showed that good music with good choreography may result in a high end spectacle. 

The drummer, percussionist and Syracuse University's professor Joshua Dekaney played congas and tamborim with Tribores as a special guest. Among the artists Joshua had already performed with are Aretha Franklin, Dave Valentin and Peter Cetera.




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