Backline Beats

Delilah Slips Into The Brazillian Big Drums

Mestre Reginaldo's Orquestra Imperial

Group: Mestre Reginaldo’s Orquestra Imperial
Location: Salvador, Bahia, Brasil
Event: Lavagem do Bonfim Parade

Two Chants Meet as One

BAMOR - 2 Chants Meet as One - Flag Rises

Group: Bamor
Location: Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Event: Fonte Nova

A Quarter Mile of Drums

BONFIM - A Quarter Mile of Drums

Group: Sesk
Location: Salvador, Bahia, Brasil
Event: Lavagem do Bonfim Parade

This great drum and horn troupe convenes only once a year at the Lavagem do Bonfim Parade, the second largest festival in the state of Salvador. The 50 drummers from all around the city are hand picked. They play only the first quarter of the parade – 3 miles. If you wanna catch their sound you gotta know where in the parade they line up and start (towards the back) or find a good spot to wait till you hear them coming. Sesk inevitably plays the innovative underground and above ground rhythms which’ve been perculating round the city for the year before and too, the synthesis of those rhythms which you’ll begin to hear in the year ahead. for this reason Sesk becomes one of the top bands in Bonfim to get a pulse of the sound of the city.

I’m Still in Love with You

I'm still in love with you

Track: Yo Soy la Conga, Yo Solo
Location: Santiago de Cuba
Performer: Pupi of Los Hoyos

A slow Sunday night and we’d been drinking black market rum out of plastic bottles on the street with car doors wide open folks grinding dirty to good reggae music when the great Redoblante drummer from Conga Los Hoyos, Pupi, whispered in my ear he was going to make a special present for me and like that took off running down a dark street. In the super sonic cities of the world the sweet sound is always bubbling right beneath the surface so you must always be ready to catch it.

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In the magnificent Invasion parades of Santiago the Redoblante, a big drum weighing about 40 pounds, roots the other 19 drums and Cornetta China to the rhythms of remembrance and light for the 8 hours snaking through the stupefying heat. When a good Redoblante drummer feels it and flexes a surge roars through all the musicians and thus all the thousands walking and sweating and dancing, chanting and singing in the big parade.

For almost a month Pupi had been half joking saying he and his big drum were the conga, that he could take his drum anywhere in the world and start playing and the people would come out and dance and sing. He would say this and nod his head and smile and we would all laugh. And then Pupi came back with his Redoblante drum and out on the street on this sleepy Sunday in Santiago let the world in on his secret. “Yo soy la conga, yo solo,” you can hear him say at the very end of the recording if you listen tight and you have to really wonder if he knows something we don’t.


Samba Drum in the Streets of Cuba

The Parade of the Serpent - Samba Drum in the Streets of Cuba

The Parade of the Serpent
Santiago de Cuba, Cuba

Traditionally, the parade of the serpent is the last big parade before the week long Conga Invasion Parades. During the Parade of the Serpent, groups from all over the Americas and the Caribbean come and play their rhythms through the night marching along the ancient cobbled stoned streets of Santiago de Cuba so you can feel the clash and harmony of the cultures of the new world in the medium of sound.

Swamp Stomp

Swamp Stomp - University of Michigan Sound Check  Featuring Dinerral Shavers  of the Hot 8 Brass Band

Performer: Dinerral Shavers of the Hot 8 Brass Band
Location: University of Michigan
Track: Sound Check

Right after Katrina, the Hot 8 Brass Band was invited up to the University of Michigan to give a concert and clinic. Save for the bitter cold, the gig went off without a hitch though the sound check took longer than anyone could have dreamed (Cliff got stuck in the elevator of the hotel). Still, as always with the Hot 8 Brass Band, even in practice they managed to lay down some great rhythm in preparation for the night’s show. This small cut features Swamp on the bass drum, with Dinerral Shavers coming in with his drum when he just couldn’t take hearing that Swamp beat go on without some snare work.

Ave Maria on a Gas Can

Ave Maria - Santiago de Cuba

Location: Santiago de Cuba
Performer: Luisto of Conga Los Hoyos
Track: Ave Maria played on a Gas Can

“The invasion is in the rhythm of the street,” he told us. But somehow Luisito, one of the best Pilon drummers in the world, didn’t quite believe that we believed him, and he meant to show us.

There were men working underneath a car from the 30’s set up on wooden blocks, and in the gutter they’d thrown a metal gas can. Luisito grabbed the can, poured out whatever was in it, grabbed a screw driver and poked in two holes – one near the top, one near the bottom. He smiled and went in to an old woman’s house and then reappeared with a worn rope – slipped it through the openings in the can and like that had a strap for his new instrument.

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He pulled a stick off a low lying tree branch and gave the red gas can a few slaps and swaps to gauge the tone. The conga is the rhythm of the barrio – he meant to show us the how of it. At the top of the street he began playing his gas can with his tree stick and as he walked a friend of his from the conga – Toto – came out into the heat and started singing old folk songs. And like that, as we walked slow, more and more folks came flowing out to follow.

People stuck their heads out windows as we walked through the dusk, and everybody in the growing group knew the words to the songs as we followed the sound through the streets of his neighborhood, watching and hearing the people get excited by the little tap rhythm coming off the hollow can. I guess it’s not what’s in the can but the energy you put through the can which let’s folks’ spirit fly. Listen for the kids singing in the end.


Conga in the Drum Shop


Location: Santiago de Cuba
Performer: Conga el Paso Franco
Track: Samba Drums Warming Up

Right before they went out, we asked Conga El Paso Franco if they would demonstrate the sounds of the different instruments of the conga parade. We thought if we could hear them in isolation it would be easier to hear them speaking to each other, easier to differentiate the instruments in call and response as they drove each other on through the streets of Santiago in the big heat. They were tuning their drums, tightening the skins, thumping behind the drum shop which served as their headquarters. Seemed like a million people had already gathered outside in the streets waiting for them to start. We drank some rum right before we all went out. This is a short audio clip before they line up for the long 4 hour parade.