Bang a Drum! Play Samba in Troy…

Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius
Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius

Pianist, composer and world music enthusiast Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius, and her ensemble Heard recently released their new CD, “Karibu,” and it’s garnering rave reviews. Now she’s all revved up about a new musical project:

Hi, Music Lovers!

I’m trying to get the word out about something exciting whose time has come – the formation of a samba drum group in Troy! To be led by Jim Weber of Great Barrington, founder of the Berkshire Bateria, a group which I’ve been a member of for many years.

Jim is a great bandleader with loads of enthusiasm and great energy, and he has built his group up in the Berkshires to be a high-quality, authentic, Rio-style “escula de samba” that performs all over New England and the Northeast. He has studied in Brazil, (moved his family down to Bahia for a number of months) and visits there yearly; builds a lot of his own instruments (surdos, etc.); and runs this whole operation out of a great space in downtown Barrington affectionately called Sambaland. Read more about Jim in the bio below…

Upon receiving my very own surdo (a big bad *@! Brazilian bass drum) for Christmas, before I knew it, Jim and I were talking about getting things going in Troy.

Our collective aim is to have a lot of fun playing samba (and by the way, it’s the BEST cure for the winter blues…) and hopefully bring the new ensemble into performance mode at some point in the future. (Jim has dreams of bringing the group we start here together with the Berkshire group for larger events we attend, like Brazil Day in NYC.) We may end up having two sections in Troy – one for beginners and one for more experienced musicians and drummers.

We are meeting for the first time from 2-3:30pm on Sunday, January 30 at the United Methodist Church (35 State St.) in downtown Troy. Jim will bring instruments – surdos, agogo bells, tamborims, shakers, a couple of caixas (snares).

Samba is a fantastic form because there are easy parts, and there are highly technical parts – something for everyone. Kids are very welcome, too (if needed, as I mentioned, we will split the group up according to ability). We’ll be taking a donation – in the neighborhood of $5-$10 – for Jim’s time, drive and the use of his instruments.

For our first go of it, a few members of the Berkshire Bateria will be coming over to demonstrate some of the grooves we’ll be working on, including batucada, samba reggae and baiao.

Jim Weber has been drumming since he was nine years old and studied as a youth with jazz legends Joe Cusatis and Joe Morello. Throughout the years, Jim has co-founded and led bands in a variety of genres including R&B, reggae, world beat, blues and jazz.

Since 1995, he has concentrated almost exclusively on music of Brazil. His studies of Brazilian music brought him to the Drummers Collective of Manhattan (Duduka Du Fonseca and Bobby Sanabria), the Brazilian Cultural Center of New England (Deraldo Ferreira) and Manhattan Samba (Ivo Arujo). Each year he travels to Salvador, Bahia and Brazil to continue his work with contacts there.

Together with his wife Teri, he developed the “Joy of Samba” polyrhythm workshop which they have presented in hundreds of venues across New England. The percussion wing of their performance group, the Berkshire Bateria, has appeared to great acclaim on many stages, including Brazil Day festivities in NYC and many college and community music festivals. They have built a 1,500 square-foot studio Sambaland in Great Barrington, where rehearsals and classes have been held weekly since 2000.

The Bateria has performed at many of the cultural touchstones of the Berkshires including Tanglewood (as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Brazil Weekend), Jacob’s Pillow (for Governor Duvall Patrick) and the Norman Rockwell Museum’s Cultural Diversity Weekend. The Webers’ umbrella organization, “Sambadees Productions,” also oversees the Sambaland Dancers and the Brazilian melodic ensemble Bossa Triba, as well as their latest endeavor, Sambadees Traveling, which hosts tour groups through cultural trips to Brazil.

Jim is proficient on all the percussion instruments of a samba bateria and has collaborated in performance with the Paul Winter Consort (solstice concerts at St. John the Divine’s in NYC and Shelburne Farms in Vermont), Charles Neville (of the Neville Brothers), Airto Moreira & Flora Purim, drummer Horatio “El Negro” Hernandez and Manhattan Samba (at Lincoln Center). In addition to playing the gamut of Brazilian percussion, Jim is a master woodworker and builds surdo, timbal and repenique samba drums.

Story by Elizabeth Woodbury Kasius
For more information or questions, contact her here.

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