Battered by the bateria

I’ve decided I can sustain a second musical activity a week in addition to my a capella Renaissance choir, so tonight was my first class at my friendly neighbourhood samba school (it’s maybe a 10 minute walk from my apartment). Samba is parade and party music, and you need a big crowd of musicians to pull it off, which you do by founding a school which gives public classes so you have a constant supply of trained performers ready to take to the streets. This school is affiliated with another that teaches the dance also called samba, but really there isn’t as big a division between the two as you might think. Every time we were taught a rhythm we were taught the dance move that accompanies it, and we were told that certain small, light instruments (like the pandeiro) were reserved for the best dancers because you can move so freely with them (and it’s expected you’ll perform wearing feathers). I like to think I can hold my own on a dance floor but in samba the standards are high so I chose the surdo cortador, basically a floor tom hung from a waist strap.

Unsurprisingly, rehearsals went rather differently than in my usual classical music geek ensembles. Musically, it was more energetic and rather less precise. Still, the instructor, a high school music teacher who looked to be about 25, was clearly listening and watching carefully, and corrected people as needed. He was friendly, and appropriately high-energy. All his clothes, including the trench coat, were black, and he told us we could call him Mephistopheles, but instead everyone just called him Joe. The students were fairly varied and ranged from perhaps 20 to 40 years of age. I made friends with a graphic designer who also sings classical music, and a young man from Bretagne whose name no-one could pronounce.

Oh, and instead of bottled water during the break, it was Heineken. Also, it was far louder. I should have known better than to attend unequipped but when I saw all the experienced students pull earplugs out of their pockets I knew I was in for a loud night. My ears are still ringing; I’ll definitely bring them with me next time. Even the Portuguese name “surdo” is suspiciously similar to the French and Spanish words for “deaf” or “deafening” and I suspect this isn’t a coincidence.

Anyways, if you’re curious what this is all about Zuruba has some audio on their MySpace page.

Tomorrow it’s back to the Renaissance choir. Whee!