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Volume 24 Issue 9 - June / July / August 2019

  • Text
  • Orchestra
  • Listings
  • Concerts
  • Quartet
  • Musical
  • Theatre
  • Jazz
  • August
  • Toronto
  • Festival
In this issue: The Toronto Brazilian bateria beat goes on; TD Jazz in Yorkville is three years young; Murray Schafer's earliest Wilderness forays revisited; cellist/composer Cris Derksen's Maada'ookkii Songlines to close Luminato (and it's free!); our 15th annual Green Pages summer music guide; all this and more in our combined June/July/August issue now available in flipthrough format here and on stands starting Thursday May 30.


PLANTING NOT PAVING THE BEAT GOES ON! Brazilian Drum Groups in TO CATHY RICHES Maracatu Mar Aberto MARCELA BOECHAT You’ve seen them. Actually, you probably heard them long before you saw them, when the sound of funky, rhythmic pounding drifted past your ears as you made your way to a street festival in Toronto. I’m talking about those big Brazilian-style drum groups that pop up whenever there’s a festival in the summer. Loud, exuberant and infectious, baterias have become mainstays in multicultural Toronto. Sometimes there will be dancers – usually women – all decked out in feathers and sequins, shimmying along in high heels, deftly navigating the streetcar tracks. (How do they do that?!) Mostly though, it’s simply a group of drummers and percussionists emulating the massive Brazilian samba clubs, albeit on a much smaller scale. With their matching T-shirts, jaunty hats and big smiles, they bring a little taste of Carnaval, the huge celebration that happens every year before Lent in Rio de Janeiro, to the streets of Toronto. Samba as a way of life Samba is a cultural icon of Brazil, with its roots in Africa, and an integral part of life for the majority of Brazilians. Throughout the country, samba is played, danced and sung in various styles and settings. Samba de roda (samba circle) and samba de raiz (roots samba) involve smaller groups with guitar, cavaquinho (a small ukulele-type instrument) and percussionists getting together at parties and taverns to sing and dance. Ballroom samba dance (samba de gafieira), similar to Argentine tango, became popular in the 1940s and is still danced today. Toronto musician, music professor and ethnomusicologist, Gordon Sheard sees samba as a central part of life in Brazil. “Starting in the early 20th century, it played a key role in the formation of the Brazilian national identity,” explained Sheard. “It’s both a unifying element and an instrument of diversity, as its outgrowths evolve to serve the needs of specific communities – from the bossa nova of Rio’s middle classes to the samba reggae of the Afro-Brazilians of Bahia.” The massive drum groups (known as samba schools, although they aren’t schools in the traditional structured sense) formed to take part in the pre-Lenten Carnaval. Samba schools became fixtures in the community throughout the country and especially in Rio de Janeiro in the poorer neighbourhoods (favelas). They provide a social life as well as musical training and are a part of life for many in Rio. “We need to have a beach; We need to have futbol; We need to have samba. It’s all linked and part of the culture. We grow up knowing that,” says Maninho Costa, a Rio de Janeiro native. For the samba schools, Carnival parading has become a major competition, with different levels of schools – similar to professional sports leagues – competing against each other every year over a four-day period. The biggest Carnival is, of course, in Rio de Janeiro, where some legendary schools, like Mangueira, have been playing and competing since the 1930s. Samba squads often have hundreds of members and each of the main schools spends many months each year designing their theme, holding a competition for their song, building the floats and rehearsing. Each school’s parade may consist of 3,000 participants, including celebrities, dancers, singers, veteran performers and elaborate floats. The preparations, especially producing the many different costumes, provide work for thousands of the poorest in Brazilian society. The resulting competition is a major tourist draw and media event, with tens of thousands attending in the Sambadrome and the event televised to millions across South America. Baterias in Toronto The Brazilian percussion groups here are about more than drumming and often become like little communities or families for the participants. And samba can get under your skin, whether you’re Brazilian or not. Torontonian Gloria Blizzard started playing with a drum group 15 years ago until a hand injury forced her to back off the practising. So she switched to dance so she could continue to “stay deeply connected to the music in a different way. Samba is something that you catch. Once you’re in, that’s it.” 12 | June | July | August 2019

The first samba school to appear on the scene in Toronto in 1994 was Escola de Samba de Toronto, led by Alan Hetherington. Although born and raised in Canada, Hetherington is an expert in Brazilian music through his frequent travels to Brazil, playing with some of the famous samba schools in Rio and Sāo Paulo and studying with several of the master sambistas of Brazil. Finding suitable rehearsal space was a challenge for drum groups then and Escola de Samba started out in Christie Pits park, until noise complaints chased them out. When Lula Lounge opened it was a fitting home for the group for many years, being a hub of Latino culture in Toronto’s west end. In 2003, Hetherington moved the Escola de Samba Toronto to the Royal Conservatory of Music on Bloor Street. Today he teaches beginner and intermediate classes there every Sunday from September to May with opportunities for students to perform at the school and local street festivals. Hetherington also draws from the class to populate his professional samba groups, A Fantástica Bateria and Batucatronica, the latter of which is a mashup of samba drums and electronic dance music. Samba Squad was the second bateria-style band to form in Toronto and is led by percussionist Rick Shadrach Lazar, who founded the group in 1999. Samba Squad has played virtually every festival in the Toronto area and beyond over the years and is one of the most recognizable groups. Lazar describes the style of music as inspired by the Escolas de Samba of Rio, the Afro Blocos of Salvador, Bahia and the Maracatu nations of Recife, Pernambuco. “I see it as following the path of the drum along the African Diaspora,” said Lazar. “Our repertoire also includes gahu from Ghana, sabar and donba from Senegal, comparsa and salsa/mambo from Cuba, soca from Trinidad, funk from the USA and baladi from Egypt.” In 2005, Lazar continued the tradition from Rio of support for the community, especially at-risk youth, by holding workshops, along with partners Janet McClelland and Gili Zemer, at Rose Avenue Public School where McClelland taught. That grew into a full-fledged Samba Kidz program with workshops for at-risk youth. Kids who came through the Rose Avenue and Jane-Finch programs grew up in Samba Squad and went onto post-secondary programs at Ryerson and York Universities. “The program developed student leaders and the student leaders, in turn, became the teachers of our summer camps and workshops,” said Lazar. “We’re proud of the program and the progress the kids made.” Two natives of Brazil have become prominent band leaders and teachers in Toronto – Maninho Costa and Aline Morales. Costa’s group, Batucada Carioca is in the traditional style of the bands from his native Rio de Janeiro. Costa brings his experience playing in elite “We need to have a beach; We need to have futbol; We need to have samba. It’s all linked and part of the culture. We grow up knowing that.” — Maninho Costa, Rio de Janeiro native HARBOURFRONT CENTRE PRESENTS SUMMER MUSIC IN THE GARDEN th 20 Anniversary JUNE 27 - SEPTEMBER 15, 2019 FREE Presented by Baque de Bamba June | July | August 2019| 13

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