Tech Tip:World Party - The Instruments of Carnaval


by Al Criado

The drums have fallen silent today in cities from Rio to New Orleans to Paris, after a week of pounding out raucous rhythms to fuel parties lasting until dawn. Today's coming of Ash Wednesday marks the end of traditional Carnaval festivities around the globe, when the week leading up to Ash Wednesday is marked with parades, costumes, and a full-on celebration of music, dancing, and assorted pleasures of the flesh before the austerity of Lent begins. Nowhere else in the world is Carnaval time more lively than in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, where the parades of the samba schools (escolas do samba) are planned the whole year around and choreographed precisely down to the last sequins on the samba dancers' derrieres.

 

These massive processions are powered by percussion sections (baterias) that number several hundred strong. With the growing popularity of world music in general and Brazilian music in particular, many of the percussion instruments used by these giant rhythm sections are available for contemporary drummers or percussionists who wants to add some Latin spice to their musical mix.

 

Agogo bells are duo-toned bells that keep the samba schools on beat with their characteristic high-pitched rhythms. Numerous types of shakers are used to help propel the percolating batucada drum grooves. Pandeiro is the Brazilian version of the one-headed drum with jingles that we know as the tambourine. Remo makes a handy strap, the Dual Slider Percussion Strap, that allows you to play your African-style djembe drum in the style of the hand-drum sections of the carnaval processions (desfiles) of northern Brazil. The tri-toned samba whistle is used to signal changes in rhythm and tempo.

 

Companies like Latin Percussion, Meinl, Remo, and Toca carry a huge range of Brazilian and world rhythm instruments. Short of catching a flight to Rio, the best way to learn how to play Brazilian rhythms is by listening to and studying them. Music123 carries some great books and CDs on the subject!

 

For further information check out Brazilian Carnaval and New Orleans Mardi Gras music on the web or at your local CD store to hear these seductive grooves. Drummers, there's a wide world of percussion out there, so don't be afraid to get out and experience it!