About two years ago, Paty Teles, a Salvador-based drummer, reached out to me after seeing a video Tom Tom had put up. She and I had very similar styles and passions, and we talked about doing some sort of collaboration from afar. We stayed in touch and finally I got to tell her that I would be coming to Brazil so that we could collaborate in person! She invited to come stay with her and her husband Fabio, who is also a drummer and composer. I arrived on Dec 22nd, and lived with them and their two dogs in Lauro de Freitas for over week. They had a gorgeous studio built inside of a shed in their backyard, and we spent our days drumming, cooking, running, going to the beach and exploring Salvador.
We knew we wanted to write a piece together, and so we started the collaborative process by each bringing something to the table from our heritages. I brought a “swaggy” beat (as Paty calls it!!) from NYC and she and Fa taught me the ijexa rhythm that uses agogo bells and congas. I practiced that hard, it was tough to get, and then it became the central locking theme of our piece. I love that in ijexa the rhythms of both the drums and vocals are so deeply intertwined. This is so rare in western music – I feel the vocals come first and then an accompanying rhythm after. Vocals rarely are so inextricably linked with the percussion part. Drums always feel like an afterthought in the writing processes I have experienced in the US, or more specifically it feels that a number of rhythms might fit, whereas in ijexa, changing the rhythm would change the song entirely.
I wrote the opening to the piece. I told her how Portuguese sounds like such a rhythmic language to me, the movement of the words, the pitch of the sounds, that I wanted to map how I hear certain words in Portuguese onto sounds on the conga. We did just that – the piece starts off with “Oi! Tudo Bom? Acho que nao. Siiiiim….” and other phrases that I’ve heard that sound like a combination of slaps and open tones on the congas.
It was so fun writing together. Paty has a very disciplined style and taught me how to play tighter and commit to the order of things. Fa helped us write the closing solo. It was an amazingly fun collaboration and it was so amazing how they really took me and wove me into their lives that week. We had Christmas with Paty’s family and I rolled with them wherever they went and my highlight was eating beiju (tapioca crepes) with cheese and guava, and brigadeiros (chocolate truffles) from Doce Vanilla and helping them making their bomb gluten-free pasta with parmesan cheese (omg it was the best parmesan in the whole world!!!!)…everything there was so damn delicious. My obsession with guavas got me the nickname Goiagandhi Kiranbada. ❤
On my last day in Salvador, we got up at 3am, loaded the drums, and drove to Ponta de Humaita on the Bahian coast so that we could film our drum piece as the sun rose. It was so incredible. It started raining right when we were ready to start recording, so we covered the drums and waited under the balcony of an abandoned church for the rain to subside. When it was over, a rainbow had formed. It was just insanely beautiful and spiritual. I couldn’t believe it really. We then worked with Paty’s two very talented friends, a videographer named Rodrigo and a sound engineer who I think went by Portugal.
It was fun to practice Portuguese with Fa and Paty and also speak English with them – lots of great moments of things sounding hilar. On my last day I explored Pelourinho, the city center, and ran into amazing Harvard friends. Coconut water and capoeira and happiness and really…what else is there. It was such a profoundly amazing day: friends, music, sun, juice, exploration. There has been a pattern in Brazil…the last days of my time in each city end up being the best.
…ainda as ondas…
…….ainda as ondas……
………ainda as ondas………
Here is the version with the Candomble ceremony happening while we were filming:
– Suco de laranja
– Beiju com queijo y goiabada
– Um coco gelado
– Brigadeiro e cheesecake e cafe from Doce Vanilla!!!
– Lauro de Freitas
– Meistre Lua e o seu atelier (drum workshop)
– An Olodum show