Beats on the Block: Maracatu Mar Aberto expands summer program

 The scene from the stage at Block Party 2012Summer heats up in Toronto and it seems every performer we know, and that includes the large percussion groups, becomes busy busy during the few hot weather months we get here.One of those groups keeping active is Maracatu Mar Aberto, whose summer program is an ambitious one that aims to build on the educational pieces of not only the drumming style of (northeastern Brazilian) Maracatu de Baque Virado (literally maracatu of the turned-around beat), but also this year, dance workshops, instrument and prop-building workshops are on offer.Maracatu Mar Aberto at Cabbagetown Festival in 2012.By adding a number of non-musical artistic elements, Maracatu Mar Aberto is attempting to teach about, and create the experience of, a maracatu production. In the neighbourhoods of Recife, Pernambuco, where the cultural manifestation came to life and where it remains most practiced, neighbourhood and community have everything to do with getting ready for the big parade -- everyone helps out.This year's parade production promises even more colour and shine, than last year's, not to mention the musical advancement. The baque (the Brazilian Portuguese name for a maracatu drum corps) of Mar Aberto is also part of the summer program, with not only beginner classes to bring along new members, but also more focused intermediate and advanced classes for the existing members (some of whom joined via the summer program last year). Be ready for the sounds, the sights and the spectacle to bust out!Block Party 2012 at PS KensingtonAnd while we wait, there's still plenty to celebrate -- the summer solstice, the end of Mar Aberto's winter schedule and the work spent developing the performance troupe -- and of course joining in with other bands, friends, dancers, performers, Capoeiristas and artists in the local scene. All that takes place at this year's Block Party, another day-long affair with food and drink, arts and dance and all manner of fun, hosted by Maracatu Mar Aberto and Clay and Paper Theatre and co-presented by Uma Nota Culture. It will take place Sunday, June 23 at 35 Strachan Ave. in Toronto.Map from Trinity Bellwoods park to Block Party 2013 locationFor more on the Block Party, check out this post on the Maracatu Mar Aberto website or take a look at the Facebook event page.Here's a video from last year's Block Party, too:

Small World Music Festival in effect

Small World Music Festival 2012: Brazilian Blend - Festival Finale with Uma Nota Culture

This week Toronto has been getting a dose of musical sights and sounds from around the world. The Small World Music Festival, now in its twelfth (12th) year, is in full effect at several locations around the city. Last weekend saw an incredible collection of talent representing traditions from different global musical movements. Dundas Square was lively  that Saturday, when a number of diverse acts --including Kendra Ray, Lemon Bucket Orkestra, Wesli and M.A.K.U. Sound System, among many others -- rocked the crowd.

Too often than not, Toronto is full of wicked bands, events and cultural movements that go unnoticed by the city's general populace. It amazes me how much talent we have and so little conscious public that accompanies it and makes it part of their lifestyle. Small World Music Festival, cognizant of this, has re-introduced itself into the musical currents that are part of the TO landscape, allying themselves with Uma Nota Culture, Fedora Upside Down, and some quality international acts.

Uma Nota Culture's story with Small World Music dates back to last year when they were a community partner of our inaugural festival. Several Uma Nota acts have also been hired by them in the past. This year, we co-present their festival's closing party at Lula Lounge, which they have dubbed "Brazilian Blend." The night features Maracatu Mar Aberto and Maria Bonita and the Band.

Maria Bonita truly is special, and coming off of a summer where they played, among other gigs, a two-month-plus Monday night residency at the Dakota Tavern, this band promises energy. Jerusa Leão, the charismatic leader of the band, is also planning a Brazil trip soon, so this may be one of the last chances you get to see her.

Energy, romance ... and even though it's crowded, there is lots of room on the dance floor.

Maracatu Mar Aberto is also an Uma Nota favorite and partner. The last time they were featured at an Uma Nota event was the infamous and incredible Block Party. The time before that, in July 2011, NOW magazine critic Benjamin Boles commented: "Their sound is based on the maracatu de baque virado style, but by giving it contemporary context – bits of sampling, for example – the locals prove they’re not strict traditionalists. If you’re not familiar with Afro-Brazilian music, the modern touches might not be overly evident, but that won’t diminish the impact of their thundering drums and soulful vocals."

Mar Aberto Soundsystem

For this September Sunday's performance we get a glimpse of Mar Aberto's stage group, a project known as Mar Aberto SoundSystem. This group expands from the Maracatu percussion repertoire to include the influences of some great sounds and other rhythms and songs, like samba, ciranda, soul, coco de roda and reggae. Expect some sweet stuff ...

That was the SoundSystem; below is all Maracatu Mar Aberto!

Rounding out the lineup us this Sunday is  the city's finest tropical bass purveyor, DJ eLman of Dos Mundos Radio, also a frequent Uma Nota collaborator.  Join us at Lula Lounge (online tickets here) for a warm, groove-filled evening to cap off the weekend, and a great Small World Festival.

PSK Block Party!

On Sunday May 27th, Maracatu Mar Aberto, together with Uma Nota Culture, Lula Lounge and Clay & Paper Theater present the second annual Block Party. This promises to be a wicked kick off to the summer as it takes place during the first Kensington Market Pedestrian Sunday. As you walk up and down Augusta Avenue on Sunday, take notice of the entrance to the back lot of El Gordo's. Walk right through,  kinda like stepping into a different world. The lot will be transformed into the Inner Harbour, a liminal space decorated in the Mar Aberto Block Party fashion (see below for last year).The details are pretty straightforward:  the music will start at 1pm and the acts featured are as fine as any great festival in this city, and all the artists are part of the extended Mar Aberto, Lula, and Uma Nota family. Café Con Pan, with their son jarocho from Vera Cruz Mexico perform around 1:30pm, and are followed closely by Friendlyness & The Human Rights, with their mighty heavy reggae, and M.A. Sound System, and of course the Afro-Brazilian style of Maracatu Mar Aberto around 6:30pm. Maria Bonita & the Band's sweet forró sounds will bring us the romance in the early evening. DJs throughout the day will include, The Record player, MC Bookshelf, Hadi Man and Jerus Nazdaq.This will be a true community event with bands coming to play for people in the market in a safe environment where we can enjoy , dance, drinks and friends in the comfort of our Kensington Market... so come and we may add, please donate as all the funds go towards the event production. There will be cold beer all day and caipirinhas by Pitú.BLOCK PARTY SCHEDULE1:00 Shira Gelman1:30 Café con Pan2:15 DJ: M.C. Bookshelf3:00 Friendliness & the Human Rights3:45 DJ: Hadiman4:30 Samba Elegua5:00 Mar Aberto Sound System5:30 DJ The Record Player & General Eclectic6:30 Maracatu Mar Aberto (& Friends)7:15 Maria Bonita & the Band8:15 DJ: Jerus9:00 Let's tone it down a bit ;)Last year's Block Party was a phenomenal co-production by Samba Elégua and Mar Aberto at Zero Gravity Circus. The old Vaudeville theater, with high walls of exposed brick, was made to resemble a cityscape, with 'outdoor' vendor tents,  laundry spread out across the venue and good, good music including Mar Aberto's inaugural show, raw and biting. View photos from the event on Mar Aberto's facebook page. 

Afro Connections: Wunmi in Toronto

Africa has long been regarded as ground zero for the beat and the sole birthplace of rhythm. Without exaggeration, it is the very epicentre from which an endless stream of beat-driven music has flowed since day one. But while the continent itself is as varied musically as anywhere else in the world, we tend to use just one single word to describe the many polyrhythmic influences this part of the globe has given us. That word, of course, is "Afro."Now, this word tends to gets tossed around a lot, but nowhere in the world is it more at home than in Brazil, where rhythmical styles like Samba, Maracatu and Batucada trace their lineage from the African experience.This Saturday's show at Revival in Toronto will feature a great musical encounter from these two areas of the world:For one, we'll showcase the one and only Wunmi from Nigeria. She first appeared back in the late '90s, collaborating with the likes of Bugz In The Attic, Masters At Work and Osunlade and helping to kickstart the whole neo-Afrobeat scene that would soon spread across underground movements in both the U.K. and the U.S. Her stage presence, style of musical attack and singing voice are comparable to greats that have come before her (namely Fela Kuti and Victor Oliaya, among others). What's interesting to note is that while she remains true to this long line of Afrobeat legends, she is a woman in an field traditionally dominated by men. This combination of sensitivity and vulnerability coupled with a hard-edged stage presence creates something entirely new to be experienced and is sure to make this weekends show very special indeed. (More about Wunmi on her very nicely designed website.)The other part of this Saturday's show (a co-production with United Soul) is a showcase of our Uma Nota mainstays Maracatu Mar Aberto. Billed this time out as Mar Aberto Percussion, this performance will feature a pared-down version of our beloved super group playing various drums and instruments alongside myself, DJ General Eclectic. Expect to hear a broad cross section of Brazilian music, specifically Afro-Brazilian styles like Samba, Bossa Nova and MPB alongside newer underground beat productions. This will be our first DJs-and-drumbeats type of event since our three-day festival last November, so we're all super excited to create a dynamic showcase and also reconnect with our music-loving community! See more about the event on our Facebook event page.