Tdot Batu's Nice Up Festa celebrates reggae and percussion

Tdot Batú at PSK Kensington, June 2014 (Photo: Manish Pothen)Tdot Batú burst onto the Toronto Brazilian percussion scene over one year ago with their debut performance at Muhtadi Festival in summer 2013. Since then they have torn up the place and have won a lot of fans for their "Bloco Afro" style percussion group, based on the Salvador da Bahia-originating  form that incorporates many surdo bass drums along with thick-sounding snares, high-pitched repenique drums and, by and large, an altogether different groove than (most of) those of the city's existing samba and maracatu groups.Now they're hosting another event in support of an upcoming CD recording project. (Details below.) But before we get to the present, here's some background.The group is led by Patricio "Pato" Martinez, who was born and raised in Salvador to Chilean parents, where he learned percussion after becoming fascinated when he heard the drums in the street as a nine-year-old. At 13 years, he began playing with some groups, and from age 14, while living in Rengo, Chile, Pato led and was responsible for that city's chapter Pacha Batú ("land of the drums" -- the organization included blocos in other Chilean cities, which sometimes joined up for larger-scale encounters).This was all before Pato moved back to Brazil at age 21, where he wasn't playing music this time, only working. In 2008 he moved to Toronto, where members of his family had lived as early as 2001. Pato missed playing, so he bought a djembe and began to jam out on his own in city parks and on the beach. He also performed as a percussionist with Salviano Pessoa at the first Brazilian Day Canada in 2009 at Yonge-Dundas Square.Tdot Batú at PS Kensington, July 2013 (Photo: Manish Pothen)But it was at the 2011 Global Marijuana March and rally in Queen's Park that joined up with a number of local rhythm heads, who invited him to the drum circles they attended and led at various, sometimes secret outdoor locations in the city.While Pato began to frequent the drum circles, the idea struck him to create a Brazilian percussion group that was different than the ones that existed (and still exist!) in Toronto. He got the drums together and began rehearsing with a core group of 12 members in December 2012.Tdot Batú at an early rehearsal, December 12 (Photo via Tdot Batú/Facebook)The group that came to be known as Tdot Batú rehearsed their repertoire months ahead of the group's debut performance in June 2013, where a Capoeira roda broke out during their set at the Archie Alleyne stage at Muhtadi International Drumming Festival. At the 2014 festival, they were featured on the main stage, along with a dance element provided by Dance Migration Company.Tdot Batú at Muhtadi International Drumming Festival, June 2014 (Photo: Manish Pothen)Now with 24 members, Tdot Batú has become a staple of the local Brazilian percussion scene, doubling in membership as well as new rhythms and breaks to the live show repertoire, which now frequently includes a dance component courtesy of Dance Migration dancers as well as guitar by Toronto-based Brazilian artist, singer and percussionist Sandro Liberato. Tdot Batú now covers samba-reggae classics along with the heavy percussion-only beats, breaks and grooves.  There's even been some guest violinist action playing strings solos over the rhythms at certain shows; and a special rhythmic & vocal arrangement of Dawn Penn's classic reggae jam No No No has become a live staple with vocalists/MCs La Flakah & Yo Dub, whose project Antidoto Reverde, featured on the mic for the tune, invited Tdot Batú to participate on it. Pato and a fourth Tdot Batú member, Pablo, also play in the second group.Tdot Batú has developed its own style, a friendly, unity-loving crew always smiling and stepping together on stage to create a welcoming vibe for the crowd, and the Tdot Batú crew frequently comes out to events, shows and parties (including Uma Nota events and others, like Dundas West Fest 2014 and Alpha Blondy at Afrofest 2013) with friendly energy and a will to participate, get down and build community.Highlights of their performances include a spotlight set at Friday Night Live, on the main floor of the Royal Ontario Museum  (also with participation from Dance Migration), as part of the Muhtadi Festival-curated "Beats" edition of the popular event.Other highlights include  appearances at festivals like Muhtadi and Afrofest, shows at Lula Lounge and Clave Social on St. Clair; a set at Maracatu Mar Aberto's 2014 Block Party; street-side presentations at Pedestrian Sundays in Kensington Market (PSK), jamming there numerous times with Samba Elégua; collaborations with Salviano Pessoa; providing rhythms for Dance Migration's dance classes; and special guests including Mestre Bola of Capoeira Camara, with whom Pato also plays in the group Bloco Bracatum.Tdot Batú at Maracatu Mar Aberto's Block Party, June 2014 (Photo: Manish Pothen)For a late summer jam with reggae, percussion and more reggae, the Tdot Batú crew and Uma Nota have joined together with Lula Music and Arts Centre to present Nice Up Festa.The night features a stellar Toronto reggae and ska band, The Arsenals, who rocked a great set at the Dundas West Fest in June. Their upbeat reggae jams will lift our souls and bring a sunny state of mind.On the decks it will be K Zar Dubwise, one of the main cats behind the Dub Connection heavy reggae and dub cuts series and their custom-built soundsystem (which won't be present at Lula, but the house sound is always great there). And special guests Dance Migration and Capoeira Camara will be in the mix as well.With Tdot Batú's emergence on Toronto's Brazilian music scene, things seem poised for bigger, better booming beats and a flourishing community of rhythm lovers. Tdot Batú brings joy and gives and creates huge amounts of energy, and Toronto is excited to have them.Tdot Batú, June 2014 (Photo via Tdot Batú/Facebook)Nice Up Festa goes down Thursday, August 14 at Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W. Doors 9:30 p.m., $10 before 10 p.m.,$15 after that. Proceeds will go toward a professional studio recording for Tdot Batu's first CD. Facebook event page hereLula Lounge listing here.Nice Up Festa

Mar Aberto Christmas Classic

Mar Aberto Christmas ClassicMaracatu Mar Aberto & Uma Nota Culture present a stellar holiday party:The Mar Aberto Christmas ClassicBring your cheer and raise a glass to celebrate a time of renewal and another year gone by!Come early wine & dine, or come late party and dance. Or both.Everyone is welcome!featuringMaracatu Mar AbertoDance Migration CompanyLuanda JonesMar Aberto SoundSystemDJ General EclecticSpecial guest: Lady SonLula Lounge1585 Dundas Street WestThursday December 19th7:30 p.m.$10 at the door -- $35 with dinnerMore info on the Lula Lounge website here.Facebook event page here.Mar Aberto Christmas Classic

Brazilian showcase at Lulaworld: Benjamim Taubkin and Luanda Jones

One of the artists participating in a first-time collaboration at Lulaworld 2013 is our friend and Brazilian muse Luanda Jones.Luanda JonesShe's been developing her repertoire with a number of new sounds, and some of that work will be showcased.Benjamin TaubkinJones' concert at this year's festival, however, sees her share the stage with the formidable São Paulo pianist Benjamim Taubkin, who'll perform his own compositions along with his takes on Brazilian and other pieces. (The new piano Lula Lounge brought in a couple of months ago is proving a worthwhile in-house investment!)2010.11.06 Benjamin Taubkin @ LIFEM 2010 (Kings Place) from Tim Ferguson on Vimeo.It's a solo concert by the internationally acclaimed Taubkin, featuring his compositions as well as his takes on great Brazilian and international composers, all based on work originally recorded live at New York’s renowned Fazioli Salon.Taubkin, who has worked with Rafael Rabello, Paulo Moura, Joao Bosco and The Brazilian Jazz Symphony Orchestra, is considered a top collaborator; Jones will sit in on one tune.For her set, Jones brings nine new originals to perform with a band that includes, for the night, composer Gordon Sheard of Jones' Brazilian jazz project Sinal Aberto.Ian de Souza, Gordon Sheard, Marito Marques, Luanda JonesThey'll play one of Sheard's own tunes, Forrocatu (a portmanteau of the northeastern Brazilian musical styles forró and maracatu). And Taubkin will reciprocate by joining in on a tune or two during her set, which includes new departures touching on Afrobeat, bossa and other, more experimental sounds.Later, the night transitions to a party vibe with DJ General Eclectic and featuring Colombian-born, Toronto-based Lido Pimienta, the visual artist and curator behind Lula's innovative Bridges series. Expect all the good Afro-Brazilian, Latin and funk goodness (and it's a holiday Monday the next day so no excuses!). Plus there will be a photo exhibition of images from Colombia in the lounge, provided by Amnesty International's Toronto chapter as part of their Week of Action for the Rights and Survival of Indigenous Peoples in Colombia.More event info on Lula's site here and on Facebook here. Hosted by Uma Nota, Dos Mundos Arts and Media and aluCine.More on Lulaworld 2013 in our previous post here.Lulaworld 2013: Benjamin Taubkin - Luanda Jones - Uma Nota & Dos Mundos

Latin Soul at Lulaworld 2013

Lulaworld-630x430-630x430This year's lineup for the annual Lulaworld Festival, presented by Lula Music and Arts Centre, is subtle but very impressive. The concept behind the festival is to allow Lula Lounge's non-profit arts wing, the LMAC, to put together a series of presentations and concerts showcasing both local artists, often in first-time collaborations, as well as international guest artists.The 2013 Lulaworld festival, which closes May 31, features more than 120 artists representing more than 12 countries, opening the series with an Ethiopian jazz project and closing with renowned Brazilian dancer, teacher and choreographer Rosangela Silvestre along with Toronto's Dance Migration company in a top-billed performance called Faces of Samba, all capped off with a show by Maninho Costa and Batucada Carioca. Also on the bill May 19th is Brazilian piano mestre Benjamin Taubkin, followed by our very own Luanda Jones. There will be some collaborations between them and the night will finish off with an Uma Nota, Dos Mundos & aluCine combined force after-party. (More here.)This year's festival highlights Lula's "Latin soul", best explained in the official Lulaworld release:"When planning this year's festival, we looked at the latest projects by Toronto artists and were amazed by the depth, variety and caliber of the work being brought forth by Latin music communities over the last year. As a result, this year's festival includes many aspects and elements of Latin music as it blends with and informs other genres. This year's concerts (which include 5 CD releases!) will reveal the Latin soul as it is expressed joyfully through classical, hip hop, reggae, Afrobeat, Jewish music, jazz and straight-ahead salsa!"Sounds good.  That kind of mixed bag of exciting musical flavours reminds us of exactly why we love Toronto, Lula, and the communities that surround our own Uma Nota events as well.Lula-All-Stars

The Samba Squad. They Love Drums.

 Samba Squad press shot circa 2004-5If you are a lover of rhythmic, drum-based music, it is impossible to ignore Samba Squad. In multi-cultural, multi-rhythmic Toronto, a city with a great number of street bands, batucadas, maracatus, percussion groups et al., the Samba Squad, after arriving on the scene in 1999, is the city's biggest and most well-known.While they use the name ‘samba,’ they are a lot more. The Squad (as they are affectionately called) play a variety of rhythms from a host of traditions around the world. They come equipped with their own arrangements of samba, samba-reggae and maracatu from Brazil; Cuban congo; soca from Trinidad and Tobago; West African dundunba; and even Middle Eastern and Punjabi rhythms. The repertoire reflects the diverse interests and origins of the band's members. Manyof them have been accompanying the world music scene in Toronto for some time, and, while mostly sticking to the instrumentation of the Brazilian samba bateria, they have no prejudice, using any instrument in the construction of their song or arrangement. While traditional die-hard adherents of one type of musical form (like myself with maracatu and others with samba) are often adverse to the mixing and matching, it is precisely this factor that has made the Squad so popular with so many people in T.O. In many ways, musically, they represent the multi-cultural vibrancy of Toronto more than any other band. And they rock it, too.Picture of Samba Squad at Muhtadi's International Drumming Festival in 2012. In their stage show they have a whole band in place that includes keyboards (heavy composer and Brazil-phile Gordon Sheard), bass (Collin Barret) and guitar (Demetri Petsalakis). They recently released their 3rd CD, Que Beleza ("what beauty"), at Toronto's Lula Lounge. Their special guest singers usually include: Andrea di Bartolomeo, Cuban vocalist "King Bombo" Alberto Alberto,  and Brazilian singer, Uma Nota favourite, Luanda Jones.Here is a sample from their latest CD:I love the wording of the press release:"Hand to Hand, Skin to Skin…. we mix these influences with Global Grooves of the African Diaspora.  The beats ... the grooves … the flavours … all come together in a seething cauldron to produce the sound of Samba Squad." (I especially like the "seething cauldron." I am a big fan of cultural cauldron imagery.)Samba Squad is also the patron of  Drum Artz, a charitable organization that emerged out of the performance group. It is a community percussion school and arts program that is accessible to people regardless of age, gender, class, race and (dis)ability. They are the force behind Samba Kidz, a summer camp and after school program whose name says it all. It is impressive stuff, and proves that the work and vision of Samba Squad in the community is more than just lip service.Of course one can’t  tell the story of Samba Squad without Rick Lazar. Rick Lazar is in many ways the grand daddy percussionist of Southern Ontario. He is a constant reference for gigs, instruments, and considerable percussive knowledge. He is the leader and artistic director of the band and patron of Drum Artz. He is also known as the "thrill sergeant" by the Squad members. Gotta love it. Check here for his bio.bazou12_rick-chip-small-1024x682Here are  couple of videos that show the Squad's versatility and diversity:Afro-Brazilian Cuban Styles with Alberto Alberto!Samba Squad performs  this Thursday, March 21 in Toronto for the CD release of Que Beleza (part of Canadian Music Week). Venue: Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. West. Doors 9:30 p.m. $15 at the door. More info: Facebook event page | Lula Lounge website listing