Nation Beat – A 21st century mash-up of the thunderous grooves of northeastern Brazil with the strolling swagger of New Orleans funk.
Nation Beat Continues Dancing to the Beat Of Different Drummers On Carnival Caravan, the Band’s New EP
Scott Kettner, Nation Beat and the Mardi Gras band Cha Wa Combine the Rhythms Of Brazil, New Orleans and New York for a Groundbreaking Musical Gumbo with a Scorching side of Feijoada!
Nation Beat’s live shows have taken on an almost mythological aura for their ability to lift the souls, and the feet, of their growing cross-cultural audience. The band’s music melds Brazilian rhythms – maracatu, coco and forro – with New Orleans funk, rock, jazz, bluegrass and country blues. Drummer/percussionist Scott Kettner and the band continue exploring the traditional sounds of New Orleans and Brazil on Carnival Caravan, a collaboration with Mardi Gras band Cha Wa and Brazilian singer/percussionist Silverio Pessoa. “Past albums have leaned heavily on Brazilian music,” Kettner says. “Working with Cha Wa on Carnival Caravan enabled me to explore musical inspirations from New Orleans in an even deeper way than on past albums.”
Kettner took a group of maracatu drummers to Mardi Gras in 2012, to march with Big Chief Monk Boudreaux’s band of Mardi Gras Indians. “The maracatu and Mardi Gras Indian rhythms complemented each other so well, I knew I had to bring these cultures together,” Kettner says. “One of Boudreaux’s drummers, Joe Gelini, came to New York and we discussed joining forces with his group Cha Wa.” The bands played live shows together and began working on the arrangements for the songs on Carnival Caravan. The EP’s five scorching tracks, produced by Kettner and Gelini, jump out of the speakers with their ferocious grooves and euphoric vocals.
“Casa Diamante – Sew Sew Sew” combines a traditional maracatu song by Nação Estrela Brilhante and a Mardi Gras Indian piece, both celebrating the liberating spirit of carnival. Kettner’s polyrhythms, Mark Marshall’s reverb soaked surf guitar and Fabiana Masili’s sunny call-and-response vocals create a jubilant feeling. Brazilian coco is blended with Second Line strut to give “Vou Cantar Esse Coco” its relentless drive. Silverio Pessoa’s percussive vocal, recorded in Brazil, floats through the mix merging seamlessly with Marshall’s rock guitar and a killer New Orleans horn chart.
Masili sings lead on “Golden Crown,” becoming the first woman to do so on a Mardi Gras Indian song. “Cha Wa singer Spy Boy Honey told us this was historical,” Kettner says. “It’s taboo for females to sing Indian chants. He was proud of taking the leap to break this taboo. I knew this was the first time that a Mardi Gras Indian had recorded with a Brazilian group, so it made Fabiana proud to know that she could bring a new perspective to these songs and inspire women to continue to break taboos.”
“Canto da Ema – All On A Mardi Gras Day” is a medley that includes a forro hit by percussionist Jackson do Pandeiro and another Mardi Gras standard. The laid-back arrangement features the subtle intertwining percussion of Kettner and Fernando Saci and lead vocals from Masili and Spy Boy Honey Banister, Jr. from Cha Wa. The well-known folksong “Liza Jane” brings everything full circle, with a tuba driven horn section from New Orleans accenting complex Indian rhythms from Gelini that morph into an extended samba interlude, featuring the percussion work of Kettner and Saci.
Kettner grew up in North Florida; he’s been playing drums and percussion for as long as he can remember, but the discovery of maracatu, an obscure Afro-Brazilian rhythm, was a life-changing experience. “[Jazz drummer] Billy Hart, my teacher at [New York’s] New School University, was turning me on to African music from different regions. He told me about maracatu. I pointed to his drum set and said, ‘Show it to me. He said, ‘I don’t know how to play it! You have to go to Brazil to learn it and come back and show it to me!’”
After graduation, Kettner spent a year in Recife, Brazil, studying maracatu with his mentor, Jorge Martins, a long time member of Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante, one of the oldest, continuous maracatu nations (ensembles) in Brazil. “The rhythm evolved out of the crowning ceremonies of African kings and queens during slavery,” Kettner explains. “It’s just voice and drums, like the New Orleans second line bands and the Mardi Gras Indians. When I was living in Brazil I got the idea of merging the Mississippi with the Capibaribe River of Recife.”
That idea came to life in Nation Beat, a band that blends the rhythms of New Orleans and Brazil. Their three previous albums, Maracatuniversal, featuring Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante; Legends of the Preacher, featuring the Klezmatics, and Growing Stone, explored different aspects of the Brazilian/New Orleans fusion that comes to full flower on Carnival Caravan. “Most people aren’t aware of maracatu or Mardi Gras Indian traditions,” Kettner says. “We hope to show people there’s more to Mardi Gras and Carnival than hanging out and getting drunk. We want to educate people about these traditions through our music and musical workshops.”
This summer, Nation Beat’s Carnival Caravan featuring Cha Wa will be performing at the Pan Am Games and Sunfest in Canada, as well as Central Park’s Summer Stage, opening for Nação Zumbi, one of Brazil’s major and most influential international fusion bands.
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