Samba the Night Away



When vibes/percussion player Nick Baker—anyone ever seen him without a smile on his face?—slipped me the word about a celebration of Brazil Independence Day this Friday at Sister Bar, featuring Baracutanga, PANdemonium, and Odara Dance Ensemble, I did some quick research on Brazilian Independence Day, since I knew absolutely nothing about it. Yet another gap in my education.

According to Wikipedia, on January 9, 1822, when Pedro, Prince of Brazil, refused to return to Portugal from the Kingdom of Brazil in response to the Portuguese assembly’s demand, he
created Dia do Fico, which Wikipedia freely translates as “I’ll Stay Day.” On September 7, the same cat declared Brazil’s independence, which is celebrated in Brazil by big military parades.

Outside Brazil, there’s no Brazilian military to appease, so people celebrate in a more Brazil-
appropriate way: with music and dancing. Wikipedia tells us that the 2008 celebration in New York City, called Brazil Day, drew 1.8 million people and was broadcast live in Brazil, so the folks down there had a choice other than military exhibitionism.

This Friday, Frank Leto’s PANdemonium, along with Pilar Leto’s Odara Dance Ensemble, will get things started. You won’t have to fight a crowd of 1.8 million, and you will likely be saying “Eu
along with Prince Pedro. Then, Baracutanga, fronted by singer Jackie Zamora, will justify your wise decision.

A South American Thing

Formed five years ago to showcase the music of South America, Baracutanga caught the eyes and ears of Peruvian native Jackie Zamora with its South American accent, unavoidable since several of the original members were South American natives. She particularly dug the
batucada and the marching they did, so she started showing up at their gigs on a regular basis. Zamora, who also sings with the salsa band Calle 66, jokes that Baracutanga invited her to join the band because they “got tired of seeing me everywhere.”

Today, in addition to Zamora, the band includes Nick Baker (drums, vibes, vocals), Carlos Noboa (bass, quena, vocals), Chadd James (saxophone, flute, clarinet), Paul Gonzales (trumpet, surdos), Kilko Paz (charango, drums), Tomás White (congas).

The band will be presenting four original songs that they hope to include on their upcoming
album: “Te llama mi tambor,” “El Son de condenado,” “Deja de matar,” and “Rumba de Burque,” which is a finalist in the Albuquerque Song Competition, to be decided on September 13.

The Right People

For Baracutanga, this marks the fourth consecutive year that they’ve been at the center of the Brazil Independence Day celebration. “It just made sense to do it,” says Zamora, who majored in Portuguese at UNM and was instrumental in bringing together the right people for the party.

Among those people is Viviane de Faria, who will be providing samba lessons for aspiring
sambistas throughout the evening. “She’s so good at engaging people and teaching them how to samba,” says Zamora.

Also among the right people are Randy Sanchez on guitar and Micah Hood on trombone, who will swell Baracutanga’s ranks by two.

The final collection of the right people are Frank Leto’s PANdemonium and Pilar Leto’s Odara Dance Ensemble. “We’ve been wanting to work with them for a while,” says Zamora. “He’s
absolutely great. He’s a crowd pleaser, and of course, the Odara Dancers—what’s not to love about them?”

The Letos’ Touch

Frank and Pilar Leto.

Frank and Pilar Leto.

Honored to be asked to join the celebration, the Letos are looking forward to the freedom offered by the event. For the band, which includes Leto (vocals, percussion), Nick Baker (percussion), John Bartlitt (drums), Cesar Bauvallet (trombone, percussion), Howard Cloud (bass), Steve Figueroa (keyboards), and Kanoa Kaluhiwa (sax), the event allows them the
opportunity to extend beyond the limits the Letos’ Carnaval show permits.

“The difference for us is when we do the show, we have a framework we have to stay within, because dancers, lighting—everybody is locked into how many bars we play,” says Frank, who notes that they’ll be playing his original Brazilian tunes. At Sister Bar, the band will be able to stretch out a little bit. “These guys, when you let them go, the music really takes off,” he says. “It’s Independence Day, so they should be free to play.”

There’s more freedom for the dancers, too, who will be down on the dance floor with the
audience. “It’s a very funky, warm venue, that I know people will feel up close and personal with the dancers and with the band,” says Pilar. “So we’re really excited to bring something just a
little edgier to our performance, in our costumery. Our energy is always the same. We always bring light to wherever we go.” In addition to Pilar, the light bringers include Natalia Casiano, Amy Joy Iwasaki, Evelyn Linzy, and Naomi Elizabeth Montoya.

A South American Thing (Reprise)

Speaking of energy, there will be plenty to go around according to Jackie Zamora, who offers
another reason for Baracutanga’s desire to celebrate Brazilian Independence Day: “The three main leaders of the band—Kilko Paz, Carlos Noboa, and myself—we come from South America. Our main goal is to bring the power and the flavor and the energy of South America here to
Albuquerque. We do things as loud and as bright and colorful as humanly possible, and in
honoring that, that’s why we’re having Frank, who’s such an energy to be reckoned with, and the Odara dancers.”

I’m planning to get good sleep on Thursday night and maybe a late afternoon nap on Friday
before venturing out to Sister Bar.

Brazil Independence Day Celebration
Friday, September 5, 8:00 p.m.
Sister Bar
407 Central Ave. NW, Albuquerque

© 2014 Mel Minter. All rights reserved.

4 thoughts on “Samba the Night Away

  1. Jackie Zamora

    Thank you, Mel, thank you, thank you. . . . You truly get the message each artist is trying to convey. Friday will be so amazing!!!!

  2. Pilar Leto

    Mel Minter, you are a wonderful writer and make each artist look and sound good.
    Thank you for your expertise and support. Your questions are fresh and right on track.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *