Photo by Annette Kelm.
In discussion with Tyler Pope on “Batucada Capoeira” (1998).
So how did you come across „Batucada Capoeira“? What triggered your curiosity?
A friend and band mate of mine! I had bought this compilation when it came out in the late 90’s and I was introduced to it that way. At that stage we were always looking for stuff that was rhythmic, and raw, and had energy. Stuff that wasn’t punk rock that had the same energy and essence of punk, and I think that is in Batucada. There were a some other great reggae and latin compilations on Soul Jazz we liked, and so I’m pretty sure thats why he bought this one. We dubbed the vinyl onto cassette and listened to it a lot on our first tour of the states in ’98. It grew on me the more we listened to it on the long van rides during that tour, and I was eventually totally hooked.
What attracted you to a sound that is so predominantly rhythmic?
I’ve always been drawn to rhythmic music, my dad was a drummer and there was always a drum set up in the house so it started with that. As a youngster I was into Primus, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and that whole funk rock thing. That music primed me for getting into soul and funk music and all other kinds of tribal rhythmic music. This Batucada compilation was probably the first stuff I really enjoyed that was only drums and thats why it’s special to me and why I chose it for this article.
The sound of a Bateria can be quite a complex wall of sound. What is the difference between that and percissive music from other countries, like Mbalax for example, or other African styles? Or are they even not that different?
There are different drums, instruments and rhythms in Bateria then in Mbalax and other African percussion music, and I guess that is to do with the European influence in Brazil. There are no snare drums in African drum music like Sabar or Mbalax, and the snare drum comes from Europe. Also I’ve never heard such a large group of drummers playing in such an organized way in African drumming. But the frantic energy of the drum music of both countries is certainly similar.
Not every track featured here is as frantic as the drum workouts usually associated with it. What do you prefer?
I like this compilation because it has some of more frantic workouts and mixes them up with the more minimal tracks. It makes for a more enjoyable listen from beginning to end in my opinion. Some of the other Batucada records that I have, that are just the big frantic drum workouts are fun to listen to for a track or so, but maybe not as a whole record
Was the compilation a first glimpse, and you investigated further from there? The tradition of Batucada and Capoeira in Brazil is rich and sure offers a lot to listen to.
I checked it out because it was on Soul Jazz, and at the time it came out other Tropicalia records were being reissued like Tom Ze, and Os Mutantes other real arty weird quality music, so I was wanting to hear more stuff from Brazil. I haven’t really gone too deep, or at least deep by my standards with Batucada actually, this comp never really gets old either so if I want to hear something like this I just listen to this record.
Capoeira is a form of martial arts developed by slaves. I always found music interesting that transfers otherwise potentially critical encounters between rival groups of people into a battle of dance moves, be it breaking, vogueing, or Brazil’s current Funk Balls. Yet the music of „Batucada Capoeira“ is comparably more dynamic than its counterparts. Are such aspects important for percussive music?
Yeah, I hadn’t thought about that but I also like music made for these types of encounters, or battles. I love a lot of the new Vogue/ballroom club music, and recently have been really digging some of the Jersey Club battle tracks. The records for dance battles are more beat driven, there is more focus on the rhythms, and of course they have to be super funky since they have to inspire the dancers. The tracks for battles also cut away at anything that wouldn’t be just for the purpose of the dancing. That focused rhythm track energy I really like. As far as the dynamic nature of this music it is because it’s actually people there playing the drums while the battles are happening, so the drummers are feeding of the energy of the battles and vice versa.
There is a vital element of competition in this sound. I first became aware of this music when I watched football games in Brazilian stadiums. The match between the football teams was extended to a match between rivalling supporters and their drum groups, and it was quite an inferno. European support seemed very tame in comparison. And the competition between the Samba schools is as dedicated, albeit in a probably more playful manner. Do you think this serves the quality of the music?
Yeah totally, if you were playing you not only had the passion that all the drums being played together inspire, but also the passion that you want you team to win. I’ve never been to a football match personally so I can’t say, but I know that when you come from having less, like a majority of Brazilians do, things like winning football mean much more.
You are primarily known as an acknowledged bass player. Bass guitar is not very important to the sound of Batucada and Capoeira. Are there nonetheless lesson you could learn for your own needs as a musician?
There is always a bass type of drum or drums in these compositions. Of course the amount of notes, or bass tones that one can play at one time is limited to one or two drums. So listening to Batucada music inspires me as a bass player to play more simply, thinking of the bass as a drum. Even just one note can work if its orchestrated well with the rest of the rhythms in a song, really there are songs with LCD Soundsystem where I play one note, like a Batucada bass drum for most of the track.
You are an acclaimed DJ as well. Could you work these rhythms in a set of yours, or do they destroy every tune left and right?
What comes to mind with this music as a DJ, first is” Good Girls” by Designer Music. And man I love to play that track, but it’s more of a DJ tool. But Jeff Mills and Derrick May would often have a very Batucada feeling in their sets, and I know that Derrick May would actually play Batucada tracks in his music. I think a lot of the techno that I love is sort of energetic and cacophonous like these Batucada records can be.
Given that there are so many great examples in Brazil of what you can do with these instruments, why does so much electronic music trying to incorporate Brazilian influences sound so dull? Is it even possible to achieve something similar with other means?
Hmm, hard to say. I’ve never totally attempted to do it personally. I can imagine the people who do it wrong are trying to exactly replicate it rather than taking the energy and feeling that is there and doing their own thing. Also there is a huge amount of house music out there that has some kind of Brazillian, or “world” influence that is horrible aesthetically. Like the same awful kind of World music that was inspired by people listening to „Legend“ by Bob Marley.