Memorial da América Latina - Auditório Simón Bolívar | São Paulo | SP | Brazil


It’s not easy to organize a festival like Batuka! Brasil. Nevertheless, we have been making it happen with unquestionable pleasure since its first edition, in 1996. The obstacles are inevitable, but we always do our best to overcome them. With the hard effort of all staff members and friends, the 14th edition of Batuka! Brasil took place this last June, inside Simón Bolívar Auditorium, at Memorial da América Latina, in Sao Paulo city.

The main objective of Batuka remains the same since its first edition: to gather music lovers, students, professionals, unknown individuals, and grand icons at the same place to celebrate music and exchange useful information. The cultural exchange does not only involve the participation of international artists from different countries, but also other artists coming from various Brazilian states. The geographic grandiosity of our country is equivalent to the plurality of our culture. How the winners of the National Drummers Contest are chosen is an example of this plurality. The jury is made up of national and international artists. But before we talk about them, winners and members of the jury, we want you to comprehend that the contest is essentially a tool to reveal Brazilian talents.

The Contest is really important for the drummers, for it is a possibility to take their career to the next level. The finalists have the chance to show their skills, and to meet people that can help them enter the music industry. Therefore, even when they don’t win the Contest, they get meaningful opportunities.

The National Drummers Contest is not just about competing. During the event, the drummers spend time with their idols, learning about drumming and life in general. It’s also about taking part in a moment that can become their reality.



In recent years, the National Drummers Contest has counted with three finalists and one winner. In 2013, six finalists were selected, three women and three men, two winners were chosen, a woman and a man. The idea of dividing the contest was to inspire more women to participate. The female drummers had to prepare the same material requested for the male drummers. No changes were made to make easier for the women. All drummers had to work hard to become finalists. And during the festival they had to perform one song of their choice, a drum solo and one song chosen by the festival staff.

The only difference between the female contest and male contest was the song chosen by the festival staff. The female drummers played Chamamé, by Rodrigo Rheinheimer, and the male drummers played Nino, o Pernambuquinho, by Maestro Duda.



The female finalists were Mariana Sanchez from Santana city, in the state of São Paulo, Ju Souc from Campo Grande city, in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, and Marina Sabino from São Paulo as well. The six-year-old drummer Marina Sabino was invited to perform at the contest opening. Her teacher is Bruno Felipini, and he showed Vera Figueiredo, organizer of the event, a video with Marina playing drums. Vera loved the girl. In fact, everybody was marveled with Marina, especially the drummer Will Calhoun, who gave her a pair of (his) Vic Firth Signature drumsticks as a gift.

The remaining spot for a female drummer was transferred to the male contest. In this case, four male drummers were chosen as finalists: Fábio Marrone, from Franco da Rocha city, São Paulo; Lucas Sangalli from Curitiba city, in the state of Paraná; Robson Pontes from São João de Meriti city, in the state of Rio de Janeiro, and Rogério Pitomba from Parnamirim city, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte.



As well as Marina, two talented young drummers were invited to play in the Contest opening. They have been involved in with music from a very early age. The second guest was the thirteen-year-old Leticia Santos, from Rio de Janeiro. She has been working in a repertory for the first album of her band, the Black Aces.

One of the songs she played was Setembro, composed by her band. She also played Tom Sawyer (Rush) and Native Metal (Virgil Donati). Her performance was full of energy, with strong personality, which impressed the audience, who realized that the future holds a definite spot for Leticia in the music scene.



The following guest was Flauzilino Jr. At the age of fifteen, he already has a rich musical vocabulary. He was very focused, and played Lakeside Shuffle (P. Horvath/N. Stachel), from the book Funky Beat, by David Garibaldi, Day & Nite (David Liebman), from the Jazz Drumming play-along by Billy Hart, and ended with Escape from Oakland (P. Horvath/N. Stachel), also from Funky Beat.

Flauzilino took to the stage his powerful musical personality during his performance.



The National Drummers Contest started with the female drummers. The first to perform was Mariana Sanchez. The song she chose was Rhythm Dance, by Jay Oliver and Dave Weckl. The song chose by Ju Souc was Mobile, by Alex Cavalheri.

The judges were the same for both contests. These included national and international musicians Aquiles Priester (Brazil), Junior Vargas (Brazil), Lauro Lellis (Brazil), Johnny Rabb (US), Stephane Chamberland (Canada) and Will Calhoun (US).

The first male drummer to perform was Rogério Pitomba. The song of his choice was Samambaia, by Ricardo Baya. Next, it was Robson Pontes’ turn to play the song he chose, Island Magic (Jay Oliver and Dave Weckl). Lucas Sangalli chose Arthur e o Gigante (William Magalhães). The last one to perform was Fabio Marrone playing Prêt-à-Porter de Tafetá (João Bosco and Aldir Blanc), by Adriana Godoy.



The winners of the National Drummers Contest were announced at the end of the first day of the festival. Ju Souc and Rogério Pitomba were unanimously chosen and each one was awarded with the following prizes: a MAPEX drum kit, a set of SABIAN cymbals, a set of EVANS drumheads, a VIC FIRTH bag with drumsticks, a ROLAND RMP-5A metronome pad, a MODERN DRUMMER BRAZIL magazine six-month subscription, a IBVF + HUDSON Music (books, CDS and DVDs) cultural kit, pictures from their performances by photographer ALE FRATA. They were also interviewed by the website, for a later article.

The second prize was given to Mariana Sanchez and Robson Pontes: a PRIME snare drum with a stand, a set of EVANS drumheads, a VIC FIRTH bag with drumsticks, and an IBVF + HUDSON Music (books, CDS and DVDs) cultural kit. Winning in third place and fourth – which replaced the third spot of the female contest - were Lucas Sangalli and Fabio Marrone. The prizes consisted of a PRIME snare drum with a stand, a set of EVANS drumheads, and a VIC FIRTH bag with drumsticks.



Gabriel Guilherme, from Brazil, was the winner of the 2011 Roland V-Drum Contest. This achievement gave him the opportunity to take part in the worldwide final in Los Angeles, US. He is a very versatile musician who plays several instruments, and also an expert when it comes to Roland drums.

It was a pleasure to have him perform at Batuka! Brasil. Gabriel showed the audience that the electronic drum kit allows drummers to reach a wide variety of timbres, loops and midi resources, additionally, helping drummers improve the way they express themselves musically.



Batuka! Brasil featured an artist widely recognized by his perfect Freehand technique, and admired by a lot of drummers who have been studying his Jungle Drum’n’Bass for The Acoustic Drum Set, which is considered an important guide book.

Johnny offered the audience a performance illustrating his unquestionable talent. It was impossible not to believe his true joy while he was playing, and it hit the audience hard (in a good way, of course!). It was a brilliant performance. With impeccable technical skills, and incomparable dynamic control in an electronic drumset, he amazed everybody. He knows his instrument deeply, which allows for many news possibilities in his performances. John has been collaborating with Roland in programming the TD12 and TDW20 kits.

Johnny Rabb delivered an inspiring presentation. His presence at Batuka! Brasil was one of the most remarkable of all the festival editions.



Mike Maeda was the first to perform in the second day of the festival. The drummer released his first solo album during the event. The repertory of Techno Caos is based on electronic music mixed with a variety of rhythms. The electronic language is the main subject in Mike’s album, and not just concerning the music. Scenes of Mike in different moments, including takes from the album session recording, were showed on a screen behind him while he was playing. At times, Mike played interacting with the scenes.

Mike Maeda’s performance was a mix of powerful and skilful drumming with technological innovation. It was the performance of a drummer who knows how to combine artistic and electronic languages.



Stephane Chamberland believes that, more than play an instrument, the experience of the musician can also be an amazing motivational tool. If you have taken part in one of the last editions of Batuka! Brasil, you must know this point of view was already exposed during the festival by one of the most talented and inspiring drummers today, Dom Famularo. And not by chance, the Canadian drummer defends it.

Stephane started talking about how he became inspired to play drums. His parents are musicians, and they used to take him to their rehearsals. One day, he was sitting on the floor, and felt the drum vibration. At that moment, he decided he would dedicate himself to learning to play the drums. In 2000, he participated in a master class given by Dom Famularo in a store. It was time for another decision: to take classes with Dom, which eventually happened.

His dedication provided him with great results. Stephane highly emphasized dynamics while he played onstage. It was his first time visiting Brazil, and attending an international festival such as Batuka! Brasil. And he showed everyone what he has been learning with his own experiences.



The partnership between drummer Vera Figueiredo, bassist Gê Côrtes, and pianist Marcos Romera is not recent. They have been playing and working together for many years now. With Gê, Vera works frequently, for both of them are members of Altas Horas, the live band of a homonymous TV show. With Marcos, she remembers clearly the countless concerts they played together, including one in California (US), when her second solo album, From Brasil, was released.

The gathering of these musicians gave way to a very special concert. The energy was touching, and the music inspired cathartic moments. The people present allowed themselves to appreciate such talented artists while celebrating the Brazilian instrumental music, playing Vera Figueiredo’s pieces, as well as Santa Morena, by Jacob do Bandolim, and Chacalonga, by Victor Mendoza.

Trumpet player Chico Oliveira started playing The Blues Walk (Clifford Brown) while still backstage, walking to meet the other musicians onstage. As he got to the center of the stage, slowly approaching Vera Figueiredo, he built a bridge for interaction with the drummer. The duo was responsible for one of the nicest moments of the concert, and it brought a grand applause and was commented thereafter.



An icon in music today played to close the evening. John Blackwell is a renowned drummer, and has been collaborating with several artists, such as Prince, Justin Timberlake, and Patti Labelle. In addition to his extensive musical knowledge, the powerful groove is his trademark. During his performance, John also showed his skills regarding the simple pedal, playing with velocity and dynamics many drummers can only play with a double-pedal.

The most influential person in his life was his father. At the age of three, John used to be woken up by his father who played for him in their living room. After playing for a while, his father would leave the room, and John began playing whatever he wanted. Since that time, John has set out to become one of the greatest drummers of all time. And watching him play at Batuka! Brasil, it is fair to say that he has been doing very well on his endeavor.



He took part in earlier editions of the National Drummers Contest as contestant. In 2002, Junior Vargas played at the festival as a band member of singer Pedro Mariano. In 2013, he gave his best performance at the opening of the last day of Batuka! Brasil.

Junior has been playing with several artists, such as Chico Pinheiro, Michel Leme, Leandro Matsumoto, and also artists from the gospel scene. His performance at Batuka! Brasil 2013 was based on his experience as sideman, and also on some of his work with his own trio, VWE, where he joins Chico Willcox (bass) and Erik Escobar (piano).



An uttermost honorable figure from the groundbreaking samba scene in São Paulo, and a true expert on the subject, Osvaldinho da Cuíca deserved the reverence paid to him during the festival by its organizers. His speech was infused with his wise way of experiencing life, and his inspiring way to feel music. The audience was thrilled by his presence and music. This sambista said it was the first time he was invited to perform at an event dedicated to drums and percussion. And this man, called The Samba Citizen from São Paulo, made many people burst into tears with his words.

Julio Cesar and Marcelo Barro are sons of Osvaldinho, and also members of his band. It was really beautiful to see them onstage with their father. The band was also brought together Balto da Silva (percussion), Rodrigo Nogueira (cavaquinho), and Renatinho 7 Cordas (acoustic guitar).

During his presentation, Osvaldinho narrated biographical histories. One of them was about the time he worked as shoe-shiner. So he brought the story to the stage, playing on a shoe shiner box. It was an outstanding performance. It was also an amazing experience to listen to him to play the cuíca, the percussion instrument he can make sing so beautifully.

Brazil played a soccer game against France on this day – and won. Someone from the audience mentioned the game, and then Osvaldinho played La Marseillaise (Claude-Joseph Rouget de Lisle), the French anthem, on cuica. Impressively.

The charisma of Osvaldinho da Cuíca, and his elegance, the samba in his voice that made his feet dance; all of this helped him bring to the stage a performance which marveled everyone indeed.



He is an artist and the maker of Cajón Pithy, which has been played by several artists, including Will Calhoun. The drummer tried the Cajón Pithy, and the brushes made for playing it, during the Batuka! Brasil, and loved it.

Pithy Cajonero is an expert regarding the history of cajón. Before performing at the festival, the Ambassador of Afro-Peruvian Cajón in Brazil talked about the where it come from, and the characteristics of the music played with this instrument.

Pithy has been playing with many artists, spreading his music and his knowledge about making cajones and other percussion instruments and accessories.



He is primarily known as the drummer of Living Colour. However, Will Calhoun is also a dedicated apprentice of music from all over the world. He is a searcher, and prints the knowledge he has been attaining into his own music.

Less than a month before performing at Batuka! Brasil, Will released his solo album, Life in This World, a sample of his versatility as a musician and composer. Plurality is an important characteristic of his music. The power of his drumming groove is ever present in Living Colour, yet, there is more to it. There is also the influence of universal music. And with his own voice, and the skills of a man who is curious about the sounds of the world, Will took the stage.

One of the most captivating moments of Will had musical and visual characteristics. While his music pleased our hearts and ears, our eyes were charmed with images lit by LED drumsticks, which scratched the darkness with colors as if they were painting the air. At another moment, Will came to the front part of the stage to play with Loop Station, which he used to record several musical phrases in loops, and played over them. It sounded like a mantra. He also played the flute. He also played the flute.

Will Calhoun was a delightful presence in such a musically diverse edition of Batuka! Brasil.



He is a wonderful artist. He knows how to make the audience submerge in his multicolored musicality. Caito Marcondes Trio is also includes two special guests: Micaela Marcondes, a violinist and his daughter; and Daniel Amorin, a bass player, and Micaela’s husband. Caito’s performance simply clarified why Airto Moreira called him the Villa-Lobos of percussion.

One of his most interesting skills is how he promotes the encounter between classical and popular music, and without allowing either of these to lose their main characteristics. The result is a musical journey leading the audience to truly experience it, and appreciate the versatility the multi-instrumentalist can offer.


Several local distributors took part in the exhibition which happened during the festival, at the foyer of the Auditório Simón Bolívar. It was possible to check out products from Mapex Drums, Tama Drums, Prime Drums, Roland Drums, Pithy Cajones, Sabian Cymbals, Evans Drumheads, and Vic Firth Drumsticks. In some booths, people could try out the gear. The mini handmade drum set of Cesar Rocha was a curious detail of the exhibition.

The exhibition had the goal of showing drummers the high quality products available in the Brazilian market.

The cajon player Pithy performed in his booth every day, during the breaks of the festival. Johnny Rabb performed in Roland’s booth.


We thank everyone who collaborated, directly or indirectly, to make the 14th edition of Batuka! Brasil happen. We hope we can offer you, in next edition, another opportunity to exchange ideas, to take part in this amazing musical encounter, and to get in on the news regarding products and accessories.

Big thanks to the staff of IBVF: Eduardo Diniz, Felipe Uchida, Bruna Barone and Silvana Santos. Renata Gomes, Fernando Savani, and Habro staff. Flora Tonelli, Marcelo Jesuíno, Roberto Redondano, Tiago Borges, and Musical Express staff. Gino Seriacoppi, Giuliano Noronha and Michel Brasil from Roland. Thiago Scavazini from Izzo Musical, photographer Ale Frata, Walter Bondioli from Prime Music. João Mario Giardim and Batera Clube staff. Claudinei, André, and Santa Maria staff, André Carvalho from website, and Ingrid Moghrabi from Modern Drummer Brazil magazine.

We thank all the folks from Memorial da América Latina, the venue that allowed us to take Batuka! Brasil to the Simón Bolívar Auditorium, especially to Dora Gussi and Cesar Rocha, who were there throughout the whole festival to help us.


Modern Drummer Brazil magazine coverage of Batuka! Brasil.
Click on the image to check few images.



CULTURAL SUPPORT: Memorial da América Latina, Modern Drummer Brasil magazine, Mapex, Tama, Prime, Roland, Sabian, Evans, Vic Firth, Santa Maria, Batera Clube, O Baterista, Ale Frata photographer, Walter Mancini restaurants and Quality Suites Imperial Hall.

Artistic Direction: Vera Figueiredo
Production Director: Carla Dias
Text: Carla Dias
Revision: Ingrid Moghrabi

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