SambaDa
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SambaDa

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Physically based in Santa Cruz but culturally centered in Brazil, the band known as SambaDa is no stranger to Santa Barbara, and specifically SOhO. But its next gig in the club, on the last day of the year, is something suitably special: a culturally enriched New Year's party.
SOhO will lay out its dining delectations earlier in the evening, and then the band kicks up its undulating, world beat rhythm-machinery for dancing and calendar-rolling enticement.
Brazilian music and culture have long had a sympathetic resonance in Santa Barbara, where famed Brazilian musicians Airto Moreira and Flora Purim lived for many years. In a recent interview, percussionist Will Kahn noted the strong Brazilian connection in this town, as well as in Santa Cruz and beyond.
"We have found that the beach towns of California, especially San Francisco and south, are heavily populated with Brazilian people and people who either travel to Brazil every year, or have a similar energy to people from Brazil," Kahn said. "The kicked-back, California style translates easily to Brazilian culture."
Celebrating a decade of musical action in 2007, the band seems poised to bump to a new level, with the release of its second album "Salve a Bahia." Greg Landau, whom the band collaborated with on the new disc, has three Grammy awards on his mantel and his rèsumè includes work with Carlos Santana, Christina Aguilera, Patato Valdes, and Buena Vista Social Club's Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. In other words, they're in good company and in a good place in their own history.
Considering the band's 10-year milestone, Kahn comments that "the time doesn't define us, no, but I am proud to say that we aren't just a flash in the pan. I think that age is arbitrary. Our band ranges from 27 to 50 years old. Our true milestone is the record that we just put out. We really have found a true sense of musical identity, which is always growing. I think that we have found our sound all of our own, which reflects our whole band."
Brazilian music may be up front and central in the sound, but the group also freely wanders in and out of other genre locales, including rock, hip-hop, funk and reggae. The seven-piece band was built around the anchoring presence of a pair of Brazilian natives -- singer/guitarist/founder Papiba Godinho and Dandha Da Hora, who also joins in the percussion charge and adds a dance element to the whole.
Kahn remembers the humble early days of the band, when Godinho got busy "gathering some drummers and playing guitar and singing through the same guitar amp. Very quickly, the group caught on and has since grown to what it is today. I think that the direction at first was to spread Brazilian music. And that vision is still intact, but now we do much more as well."
Key to the band's evolution and expanding sound is a flexible attitude toward musical style. Kahn comments that their "genre-bending is due to many things. A general open mindedness of the band, respect for music on a global level, the eclectic nature of Brazilian music, and also the different backgrounds that make up our band.
"Literally, in our band we have a master dancer from Ile Aiye, a Capoeira master, and our musicians from jazz, funk, gospel, world beat, salsa, ska, reggae, samba, hip-hop, klezmer and calypso experience. Also, the Brazilian music that is cutting edge really mixes many different forms together. So mixing styles comes very naturally for us."
As Kahn says, the fundamental concept for the album was simply to "find our sound. Greg Landau came in and just asked us, 'what is your concept? What is your vision?' And he worked hard to help us get there. This album is both the culmination of the last 10 years, and the key to the next 10 years for us. It really feels like we have just started and can't wait for what is next for us as a group."
Celebrating the new year with a band such as this could be viewed as an alternative approach to the classic brainless party tradition. For his part, Kahn recognizes the inherent universality of musical expression, especially when the music is so wide-ranging and worldly.
"With the troubles that we are facing globally," he says, "with the environment, the way our government is leading the road to disaster, it is more important than ever for people to see that we are all on this planet together. 'World Music,' if you think about it, is music from this world. Music can be a great bridge to help people understand that we all have pain and joy.
"We all face the same problems -- global warming, hunger, AIDS, to name just a few. . . . Music can cross borders and help us all see our similarities, while paying respects to our different traditions." - Josef Woodard, Santa Barbara New-Press, December 28, 2006 7:35 AM


4 reveiws by music critic David Espinosa 2002

“…It’s nearly impossible not to immediately fall head over heals for samba music-the sound is so bright and delicious you’d have to be a lobotomized chimp not to feel moved by it…and while the members of SambaDá may be old hands at club gigs, they aren’t simply another Caribbean cruise ship attraction for the tourists. When they brought out the drum line to back up the dancers from “Leva Samba Dance Co.”, they worked a few hip-hop beats into the mix.”
- David Espinoza, Good Times of Santa Cruz, Ca.

“…Speaking of what SambaDá does all the time, the seven-piece crew threw one excellent party at the Crow’s Nest. The juice was turned up at half past 10 and the upstairs dance floor never stopped brimming with groovin’ bodies, some in costume for the carnival them
- David Espinoza, Good Times of Santa Cruz, Ca.

Favorites SambaDá are serving up the Brazilian vibe, hot and spicy. These musical deviants have the gall to fuse hip-hop, jazz, funk and Brazilian folk with the psycotic rhythms of the Afro-Brazilian tradition, creating music that is danceable to even the most rhythmically vacant. Whether playing contemporary Brazilian sambas, their own material, or traditional songs, SambaDá makes music flow with ease.
- David Espinoza, Good Times of Santa Cruz, Ca.

“Providing a refreshing contrast to your standard disco-cover-and-bell-bottom-tossing club band, Brazilian dance outfit SambaDá absolutely blew me away! Equipped with a full percussion ensemble that rotates during songs between amplified string instruments and drums, the seven-member Santa Cruz based group got the dance floor moving like it was Carnavál in Rio de Janeiro.”
- David Espinoza, Good Times of Santa Cruz, Ca.
- Good Times Weekely Santa Cruz, Ca



Admittedly, San Diego's winters don't get too frosty, but a few months of fogged-in daylight deprivation and the seasonable dip in temperatures can make even the most intrepid Southern Californian long for the spring. A dose of the hot, hot, hot Brazil Carnival, however, should serve to melt off those late-winter blues.

Copying the Brazilian tradition to celebrate life with a Bourbon Street-meets-Rio celebration, 4th and B's annual Brazil Carnival delivers a taste of South America the weekend before Fat Tuesday, letting letting Mardi Gras fans get their revelry started early. With samba specialists SambaDa providing the music through the night, the dance floor's sure to be packed with sweaty bodies. Wallflowers shouldn't worry, though: The Alegria Samba School dancers, decked out in eye-popping outfits of feathers and sequins are fun to watch prancing on stage. Competitive types can try their luck in the samba contest -- registration closes at 9PM, so come early. Those with a flair for impersonation will want to throw their produce-laden hat into the ring for the night's Carmen Miranda contest. -- Matt Schild
- AOL City Guide 2005


The percussion, polyrhythms, the bright melodies, the upbeat energy of the music and sometimes melancholic beauty expressed through the music. Brazil's people have struggled throughout history
and presently do struggle but they never forget how to party and celebrate life and the tropical beauty they behold. This is what shows in the music and what draws me in.
--Marcel Menard, SambaDa percussionist and back-up singer

Brasilia. San Paulo. Rio. Santa Cruz? In the continuing spirit of musical diversity, SambaDa's show at Palookaville last March brought the essence of samba to the heart of Santa Cruz and had everyone gliding across the floor with their best dance steps. Fans will get to put on their dancing shoes again as SambaDa comes to Coconut Grove on May 11th and the Ideal Bar & Grill on Saturday May 12th.

A SambaDa show is no ordinary concert. It is an immersion into Brazilian culture of the past and present. Percussion sounds of every pitch guide people in time with the addictive rhythm. The rumbling samba beat resounds liked a train going by. The women of the Fusao Dance Company, clad in ornate showgirl costumes patterned after those seen at Brazil's yearly Carnaval, stomp their way through the crowd. Others perform a mysterious acrobatic dance, called capoeria, a Brazilian martial arts form. An army of musicians, equipped with every drum and percussion instrument imaginable, leads the way for the arrival of this temporary microcosm of song and dance, and people dress to kill as they flow across the floor to the sultry rhythms of Afro-Brazilian samba.

Brazil is a mix of three major cultures and each one has influence on the origin of samba music. Sadly, this vibrant music stems from a turbulent history of culture clashes. When the Portuguese began settling Brazil in the early 1500's, they found that sugarcane was the most lucrative crop to farm. With farming came need for native slaves. The discovery of gold in the late 17th century then fostered the trade of slaves imported from West Africa. It is from Africa, combined with European and native Indian cultures, that the samba beat was imported. Like tracing the roots of rock 'n' roll through America's past, samba music continues to expand into different styles around the world. SambaDa is an amazing testament to that.

This local Santa Cruz group formed around the samba dance in 1997 and musical development soon followed. "We started actually as Fusao Brazilian Dance Company, drumming for the dancers. SambaDa came later as we realized we had other musical talents and that we could combine the two. SambaDa was born through the Afro-Brazilian dance classes in downtown Santa Cruz and by Fusao which was already wowing audiences with their dancing," said percussionist/vocalist Marcel Menard, detailing the beginning of the band.

With all six members trained in percussion in addition to their specific instruments, it was apparent to everyone in the crowd that rhythm is the dominating force of the music. Over this beat, each member contributes to the melody and enhances the rhythm: Papiba Godinho on vocals and guitar, Derek Negron on bass, guitar and vocals, Kevin Dorn on bass, Menard on vocals, Anne Stafford on saxophone, clarinet, and flute, and Gary Kehoe on drums and vocals. "The musical director of the band is Papiba Godinho. He is from Brazil - Brasilia, the capital - a city which has a rich fusion of Brazilians and Brazilian music." Samba music, samba dancing and capoeira are all Brazilian imports that have caught Santa Cruz's attention.

Throughout the show, members frequently change instruments and trade off the lead on vocals. "Papiba also writes a lot of our material, although we all help to create and arrange songs together," said Menard. From jazz influenced bossa nova to the folk-derived style of forro, SambaDa changed the tempo to keep the audience guessing and dancing. The group brings the music, the Fusao Dancers bring the moves, and everyone at a SambaDa show can experience the culture of Brazil. Menard summed up their philosophy by saying, "We hope that through listening and dancing to our music SambaDa fans feel uplifted. We hope they walk away feeling the positivity we are trying to spread. People can dance and express themselves however they want to our music. There's no right or wrong way to dance to our music."

-By Chris Polson
- SantaCruzGuide.com, Santa Cruz County Club & Music Reviews 5/4/01


"I'm going to be SambaDa"
By Damon Orion, Staff Music Writer

Glad rhythms and warm greetings waft toward me as I wander into the practice space of SambaDa, Santa Cruz's "Afro-Brazi-Latin Samba Funk" septet. It's as though I've stepped into a sound-kitchen where an aromatic musical roast has been cooking for several hours. Playful call-and-response between vocalist/guitarist/
percussionist Papiba Godinho and sax player Ann Stafford rings out over ska-like guitar and bass lines and thunderous percussion. The band pounds out a bright conclusion in what sounds like tribal Morse Code before launching into a Brazilian traditional called "Mas Que Nada." At the end of the song, everyone in the band picks up a percussion instrument for a street-procession-style jam.

Though SambaDa's music stems mainly from the Brazilian folkloric tradition, the fact that most of the members of the group are American has allowed western influences to creep into the band's sound. The result has been a broader audience than would be available to a strictly traditional Brazilian group. This has allowed SambaDa to play with bands as diverse as The Motet, Vinyl, Ozomatli, Cabaret Diosa, The Gypsy Kings and Sound Tribe Sector 9 and to entertain at the High Sierra Music Festival, Oregon Country Fair, the Aspen Jazz Festival and the Women's World Cup.

The band's warmth and humor are apparent from the moment our interview begins. As I click the tape recorder on, drummer Gary Kehoe wheezes, "Well, I was born on a small ranch outside of London town where the Rolling Stones grew up," in a comedic old-geezer rasp. Beaming with schoolboy glee, puckish guitarist/percussionist/
vocalist Derek Negron mentions his recent run-in with Stevie Wonder at the airport at ever opportunity.
"I said, "I love you, Stevie!" and he said, "I love you, too," Negron gloats. "So, I'm pretty good on that one."

Inevitably, the conversation turns toward more serious topics, like SambaDa's latest CD, New Roots. Slated for release Feb. 28, the album was recorded at Satellite Studios in Scotts Valley, with Lennox Smith handling the engineering chores. The band claims the start-to-finish recording, mixing and mastering process took about six months.

Percussionist/vocalist Marcel Menard, who radiates high-energy, let's-get-to-it confidence, sees the new disc as the band's passport to grander levels of success. "This is our opportunity to have a really good product to send out and see what other distribution channels there are," he says. "We're gonna hit the festival circuit as hard as possible with it, and I think that'll be a bigger buzz. It'll be interesting to see what happens, because we'll have this buzz continue to generate outside of California."

Papiba is optimistic about SambaDa's role in the multicultural upsurge in today's music. "There aren't that many Brazilian bands that a lot of people come to see in America," he says. "I think we're helping to promote not only SambaDa, but Brazilian culture in general."

- Goodtimes Weekely Newspaper 01/08/2004


Discography

Gente! 2010
SALVE A BAHIA, 2006
NEW ROOTS, Novas Raizes (Debut LP) 2003

Photos

Bio

There’s a beach where one sunny afternoon you may witness an offering to an Afro-Brazilian Orixa spirit of the ocean, the next day watch master capoeristas practicing Brazil’s martial art dance form, and still another day join a gathering of thousands of surfers-cum-dancers rocking out to hybrid musical sounds informed by bloco afro (Afro-Brazilian percussion music), samba-reggae, surf-rock, and California funk. No, these are not the shores of Bahia, Brazil. This is Santa Cruz, California, home of the surf-and-skate, capoeira-kicking, scene-busting phenomenon known as SambaDa. This smoldering and soldering band is a magnet of unexpected particles shaved from Brazilian and American sources. This community of people—their local fanbase and their Brazilian ancestors, their people—are honored in the title of SambaDa’s new album Gente! (February 23, 2010).

While SambaDa emerged from a Brazilian dance group, founder Papiba Godinho has not let his status of capoeira master dominate the band’s sound. Since the beginning, when some of his students started jamming on their evenings off, the motley members have always brought in their own styles and ideas. The new album features Dandha da Hora, a powerful singer steeped in the life and lessons of samba culture and the Brazilian black pride movement. When Dandha arrived in Santa Cruz, drawn by love from her home in the hills and shanties of Salvador, Brazil, she brought with her an ethos that charges the band’s music with an energy born of veneration. Every September, Dandha proceeds to the beach to lead the ritual in honor of Yemanja, the Yoruba Orixa of the ocean revered in Candomblé, her native religion. Here, the traditions of West Africa, carried halfway around the world, washed up in Santa Cruz like so much flotsam before finding a new home in the eclectic bricolage of SambaDá. One track on Gente!, “Mare,” contemplates the immensity of the ocean, how the rise and fall of the tides reflect our lives, and ends with an old Yoruba salutation to Yemanja. Yemanja takes the offering, but returns a gift in kind: driftwood from Brazil, still green at the core, takes root once again where the sand meets the hills. Dancing feet in a hundred-strong samba pat down the soil, and the strains of surf rock, alive and well, raise the tree up to be a new-culture organism, all Amazon jungle wood and funky Cali fruits.

But this is not the band’s only ritual. Guitarist and drum machine wizard Will Kahn likes to jump in the water between sets during SambaDá’s beachfront shows, which draw thousands of stomping, jumping fans. “The beach is really where our music is supposed to be,” he reflects. Will, who joined the band in its early days, is from Bolinas, that famously private hamlet in the hills near Santa Cruz. Growing up with artists, poets, and the intellectually curious, Will found it natural to mix music from around the tropical world, but mostly reggae, with the passionately laid-back culture of surfing. He is responsible for the tight, intense tsunami of a surf guitar that inflects SambaDa’s Afro-Brazilian dance tunes. That sound rides the crest of a tall wave until it crashes into a turbocharged Jamaican rhythm on “Iguana,” the first track, which also features band member Anne Stafford on saxophone. Anne’s klezmer music roots sidle up alongside the Middle Eastern inflections that Dick Dale first introduced into surf rock.

Papiba wrote “Iguana” a decade ago but revived it with the band’s fresh sound, now infused with new life and a surf-and-skate spirit. It is a fitting beginning to Gente!, an album that stands as the culmination of the band’s long evolution. Papiba, who originally came to America to study, found himself drawn to Santa Cruz by surf culture. There, he began teaching capoeira, which he began practicing when he was very young, growing up in the ultra-modern Brazilian capital of Brasilia, where Afro-Brazilian culture was ubiquitous. His teachers inspired him to show capoeira to the world. Today, four members of the band play capoeira. “Capoeira is my inspiration for everything in life,” says Papiba. “Everything I see.” This athletic awareness of the self and of the world epitomizes the jungle-cat spirit of SambaDa, whose music is always on a tightrope, reined in by an acrobat’s poise. This is the idea of the album’s second track, “Balançou.” In Portuguese, this is a special kind of swing or “balance,” a smooth pocket that keeps SambaDa’s music spinning between Brazilian and American magnetic fields. It is no wonder, then, that members of SambaDa surf and skateboard, prompting an unusual sponsorship deal with the renowned skateboard manufacturer Santa Cruz Skateboards.

Dandha da Hora, as the newest member of SambaDa, has brought an ethic to the excitement. Dandha was born in 1975 to a family involved in the founding of Ilê Aiyê, the first exclusively Afro-Brazilian bloco. Blocos organize samba dances with hundreds of drummers for Carnival processions, and