Another DAY OF THE DEAD FIESTA is upon us, marking the fifth year Canberra has celebrated Afro-Latin music and culture with performances, traditional Day of the Dead face painting, food and craft stalls, workshops, as well as live bands and DJs playing a range of genres, from Latin jazz, to reggae, West African pop, Brazilian roots, New Orleans funk and Spanish guitar.
Among the bands on the line-up is MANDACARU, a Melbourne-based group with a deep Brazilian background, and proficient skills in a range of Brazilian playing styles. BMA caught up with Mandacaru ahead of the Day of the Dead Fiesta to talk about what it means to be sharing their Brazilian culture through music.
Your band is grounded in Brazilian culture and different Brazilian musical styles. How would you describe your band’s sound?
Our band play what I love to call Brazilian Folkloric Music and the rhythm that we play is called Forró. This rhythm mainly consists of three basics instruments and was born after a fusion of their unique sounds and timbres. The rhythm is old and quite unique and has its origins in the Northeast inland area of Brazil. It’s street music and from a historical point of view, it is hard to say how it began, but musically, it is a perfect combination of harmony/melody from the piano accordion, a high pitch sound from the triangle and a low, earthy sound from the zabumba (percussion bass drum).
Our particular band project consists of one additional percussion instrument, the pandeiro (Brazilian tambourine), which combines the highs and lows, but also the mid-range. In conclusion, we play a raw, rare, earthy and organic sound featuring melodic vocals, accordion and sizzling Brazilian percussion with a unique rhythmic pulse.
As a band, what are you proudest of so far?
We have an interesting synergy within our group that is quite hard to find between musicians.
I believe we share the same life values and that seems to make everything smoother. I am personally proud of that. As for the musical side of things, as our lead singer says, “we make music, we don’t play music.” Very true! Whenever we make music, whenever we decide to put out feelings through and into any kind of art such as music; our senses are transformed and everyone can feel that – it’s real.
You’re playing a couple of shows in Canberra. On Friday November 4 at the Polish Club with another Melbourne group Solquemia, and on Saturday November 5 for Canberra’s Day of the Dead Fiesta. What does it mean for you and your band to be celebrating the Brazilian holiday of Finados (Day of the Dead)?
It means a lot! We have been together for only six months, and what we represent in our sound and what we reference most is Brazilian music; it’s a really important job for us. To be able to play and share our music interstate is also another important thing for us. I like to look into art as a medium for expressing social issues, whenever we play we are promoting interaction among people, we are creating a space of celebration, a space where cultural barriers are broken and social engagement happens. To support such a big event for Canberra, playing our music, is a big undertaking for us and to be asked to join this year’s event is also something to be extremely proud of for us.
What do you hope people will take away from your performance at Canberra’s Day of the Dead Fiesta?
We really hope as in any other performance that people also make “music”; their instruments are their bodies, and that needs to be celebrated. We hope people dance!
What would you suggest for people who want to explore Brazilian music and culture further?
Be curious! Understand that Brazil is a former colony and has a massive history of African slavery; there is a lot of rhythm and music that was created as a result of this fusion of races living together in the same idyllic country. Keep your ears wide open to the sound of Candomblé and their influences in the Northeast of Brazil. I won’t mention names of bands/musician because my list would be way too big in comparison to the space provided for this interview; but if you have a chance, a trip to Brazil is another great thing you can do to really explore the music. If you have any particular question we are happy to answer before and after our performance – promise we won’t bite!
Mandacaru will play at the Polish Club on Friday November 4, along with Spanish/Flamenco guitar duo Solquemia, from 7pm–11pm. All details here. Both groups will also play at the Day of the Dead Fiesta 2016 @ the Ainslie Arts Centre on Saturday November 5, from 3pm–11:30pm. Also playing are Los Chavos, Brass Knuckle Brass Band + more. All details here.