What’s Batala?

Our band is made up of drummers from the city and places nearby. You can hear us play at various events and festivals in the South West and beyond. We have been drumming since 2011 and are part of the global Batala Mundo group, an alliance of over 35 Samba bands spread around the world that all learn the same tunes. Members can easily visit from one band to another and occasionally we all get together to play for really big events. There were 220 of us at the last Nottinghill Carnival!

Rio-Samba, Samba-de-Roda & Samba-Reggae

Most people when they hear ‘Samba’ think of the drumming and dancing of the Rio Carnival, with the big drumming bands and the floats of men and women decked in feathers and sequins. This is classic samba. Like many other musical genres, the history of classic Samba drumming has followed a complex path. Much of the roots of Samba can be traced back to the city of Salvador, in the Brazilian state of Bahia.

The Portuguese settlers founded Salvador in the mid 1500s as the first true capital of Brazil. It was one of the earliest slave ports in the Americas and the legacy of the huge influx of slaves from Africa was a vibrant Afro-Brazilian culture, including capoeira, a rich cuisine and the music and drumming. This drumming style was Samba-de-Roda, and eventually the rhythms of Samba-de-Roda were brought to Rio de Janeiro in the early 1900’s, and here the rhythms came under the influence of European music and the result was the Rio-Samba that we know today that spread across Brazil and the world.

In Brazil’s Bahia state they still play the Samba-de-Roda and they hold a carnival there as well. While the carnival at Rio de Janeiro is the most well known, the Carnival de Bahia is a much larger affair, possibly the largest party on the planet. It lasts for a week, has a tenth of a million performers and an audience of around 4 million.

In the 1970’s a cultural reboot started; there was a resurgence of interest in the original Samba-de-Roda drumming and it was combined with reggae style beats to produce Samba-Reggae; a slower, more mellow style of drumming with less shrill sounds than classic Rio-Samba. Part of this resurgence was the Batala movement that was started in Paris in 1997 to promote the global appreciation of Samba-Reggae culture and drumming. With the internet and with new bands spinning off from existing bands the result is that there are Batala bands in many cities around the world: Paris, New York, Krakow, Vienna, Lancaster … and of course Bristol!