Published Nov 26, 2007Torontos Nunca Antes ("never before) is the first Canadian group devoted to Maracatu de Baque Virado, Northeastern Brazils precursor to samba batucada. Led by Aline Morales and her husband Alex Bordokas, Nunca Antes remains faithful to the heavily Afro-inspired rituals: call and response songs, ceremonial dances and costumes, and powerful processional rhythms centred on the alfaia, a wooden drum tied with rope and played off the shoulder. But Morales makes room for fresh collaborations as well as traditional numbers, all of which are here on Beat Migration (named after their live percussion event series). The chanting choruses riding the heavy grooves snares, massive bells, shakers and alfais comprise folk songs and original compositions, mostly written by Morales, though Nunca Antes updates one famous song ("Oro-mi-má) from Candomblé (a Yoruban-Brazilian religion) with an innovative new beat. The original compositions are catchy too, featuring swelling horns headed by Juno-winning saxophonist Richard Underhill, with guitar, bass and arrangements by David Arcus on a the sublime mermaids tale ("Mãe Sereia). As well there are djembe and distinct fusions of West African and Afro-Brazilian sounds ("Mar Sem Fim, "Tudo Passa Tudo). Morales and Nunca Antes are Canadian pioneers of a unique Afro-Brazilian tradition.
Besides the style of music, what makes Nunca Antes different than all the other Afro-Brazilian percussion groups around Toronto?
Alex: The style is a huge thing because it affects who we are in other ways as well. People who come to play with us already have certain tastes more like our style, different and raw. Few people know this rhythm; we feel honoured to be the first to present Maracatu to them. Aline: Being a woman, a group leader and Brazilian carries a lot of responsibility. I have to "keep it real in a musical and cultural sense but also adapt to life in Toronto.
Nunca Antes tagline is "rhythm, beat, movement, excitement. Describe your most fulfilling moment in performance over the past year.
Alex: The five-year anniversary of the group was in this old vaudeville theatre that we decorated like a São João festival in Brazil colourful flags across the ceiling and big silks down the side. It was so hot with the energy and everyone dancing that people were transported to another place. Aline: The ceiling had drops of sweat! I would look to the people on the stage playing, they were so happy and the crowd was giving us energy back! Alex: When we went off the stage into the crowd, the place was ecstatic, I really felt one with the whole experience, not like I was performing. Pure bliss. We were playing, people were dancing; people were dancing, so we were playing. (Independent)