Band leader, drummer and percussionist Scott Kettner discovered maracatu by traveling to Pernambuco in the Northeast region of Brazil to learn the performance genre and musical style. Maracatu was first mentioned to him by legendary jazz drummer and New School professor Billy Hart, who told Kettner about maracatu drumming but confessed he didn’t know how to play it. Hart told Kettner to go learn it and teach it to him. Intrigued, Kettner set off to Recife to study maracatu and along the way he discovered surprising connections to North American music.
“I had an epiphany while I was living in Recife. I realized that there were many similarities with the music I grew up hearing from the deep American south with the music I was studying every day. When you travel, you discover your own roots in a different way.” – Scott Kettner
After returning from Brazil, Kettner assembled Maracatu New York, NYC’s premier maracatu ensemble. Their debut album, Baque do Brooklyn on Nation Beat Music, combines traditional maracatu with New Orleans second line rhythms and a bit of New York splendor. While traditional maracatu groups may contain 50 to 150 drummers, Maracatu New York strips the band down to about 20 members. Even with their smaller numbers Maracatu New York’s driving percussion refuses to quit. The booming sound of the alfaia (bass drum) charges each composition and provides a powerful pulse throughout the record. Liliana Araújo’s wailing vocals and Dennis Lichtman’s killer rabeca (Brazilian fiddle) playing over polyrhythmic percussion makes Baque do Brooklyn hard to listen to while sitting down.
While Maracatu New York are celebrating the release of their new CD, they are also excited to bring an authentic maracatu group from Brazil to North America for the first time for a co-headlining tour. Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante was founded in 1906 and is one of the oldest and most respected maracatu ensembles in Brazil. They will be performing with members of Kettner’s other group, Nation Beat, as they play scheduled dates around the United States.
Catch A Tale of Two Nations featuring Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante and Nation Beat at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan, CT on Saturday, August 10th for the 3rd Annual ArtsFest. Watch a live performance of “Roda Baiana” with Dona Ivanize (Queen of Maracatu Nação Encanto da Alegria) at Lincoln Center Institute below. Don’t miss Scott Kettner performing solo and with Liliana Araújo on vimeo.