The music started off with a bang as Sambatá took to the stage at the Rio Theatre on Tuesday night. An impressive drum line-up produced strong rhythmic beats that got the crowds toes tapping. Sambatá is actually a school and performance ensemble led by Paul Bray whose mission is to bring people together through expression and passion of Cuban and Brazilian music and dance. There were over 15 performers on stage, clad in electric white, drumming that mission into a reality.
Most concerts always have some down time between numbers where the hardworking roadies come in to switch the set-up for the next band. On comes the annoying canned music that takes you right out of the rhythm of the night. However, with legendary DJ David Love Jones at the helm, the complete opposite was true. DJ David Love Jones wanted to be a DJ from the early age of 9 years old and has incorporated his passion for disco, funk, soul, Latin and Brazilian music into the tracks he spins to this very day. Tuesday night did not disappoint, DJ David Love Jones treated us to his signature smooth hip-swaying sounds allowing the essence of the evening to flow through. You can catch this Vancouver icon as he hosts African Rhythms Radio CITR on Friday nights or better yet, stop by his shop Vinyl Records and say hi.
Next up was a quick set from the eccentric Tequila Mockingbird Orchestra that definitely left the crowd wanting more. Consisting of band members Ian Griffiths (lead vocals/accordion), Kurt Loewen (lead vocals/guitar), Patrick M’Gonigle (vocals/violin/mandolin), Peter Mynett (vocals/ bass) and Paul Wolda (vocals/percussion), they are dubbed as gypsy-ska-folk-grass, but are so much more. At first one might wonder why this bluegrass-esque band was added to a Brazilian line-up, but the answer is clear as soon as they start to play. TMO takes you on a holiday, one you hope doesn’t end. Griffith’s accordion has you drifting down a Parisian street on your bicycle complete with a baguette in your basket. Then M’Gonigle’s mandolin transports you to backwater homes where the moonshine flows. Playing together since 2008 has allowed these boys to achieve a tight-knit performance complete with complex vocal harmonies and intricate, transient progressions. It’s that travelling feeling that made this such a great band to join CeU’s caravan. TMO is a pleasure to hear live and with such variety from one song to the next their performance is exciting and fresh. TMO have a busy summer ahead. You can try to catch them on the road as they tour throughout BC and the rest of Canada.
Curumin had a tough act to follow, but definitely pulled it off with his unique compositions. With a host of influences from dub-samba, soul, jazz, boss nova, hip-hop and of course a little reggaeton, Curumin fits all these styles into one by building off of a consistent, intoxicating rhythm. Curumin, who hails from Sao Paulo, Brazil establishes the main beat from behind his drum kit and leads the vocal tracks. He is backed by Ze Nigro on bass and Lucas Martins on guitar, both also operate a sequencer, one of the many reasons Curumin stands apart when thinking of Brazilian music. You can tell these are the types of guys who could totally get lost in a jam session which result in some epic on-stage mixes. What they lack in vocal strength, Curumin makes up for with a playful demeanor often reminding this listener of a Brazilian Beastie Boys.
Finally, Grammy-nominated Céu delighted us with her bevy of Brazilian sounds. Born Mario do Céu Whitaker Pocas in Sao Paolo, Brazil Céu wanted to be a musician from the age of 15 and didn’t once let go of her dream. In her latest album “Caravana Sereia Bloom” Céu avoids a lot of the typical smooth laid back samba and bossa nova tones typically associated with Brazilian music (think “The Girl from Ipanema”). Instead she focuses her attention on Northern Brazil, home to Tropicalia a movement established in the 60’s that incorporates theatre, poetry and music. The result is a definite psychedelic edge to the dub-reggae, samba, hip-hop, jazz, Brazilian, rhythm and blues that can usually be heard in Céu’s music. This songstress has a full, sultry, languid quality to her voice that makes it easy to listen to but manages to elude actually being easy-listening. In fact, even though all the lead up bands had pulsing, contagious beats, no one was dancing. As soon as Céu started to sing, a timid, dancing group started at the far edge of the stage. Before the invigorating melody was over, almost three quarters of the audience had migrated their way to the front of the stage to sway and swing with the music. While compiling this album, Céu was inspired by all her time on the road and each song has an element of a road trip. Céu is constantly exploring her own personal voice while still paying homage to some of her influencers like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Lauryn Hill and of course Bob Marley. One of the biggest selling artists in Brazil, Céu took the crowd at the Rio Theatre on a trip they’re not soon likely to forget. Finishing off the night with an audience-demanded encore, Ceu imparted to us that she believes, like many, that life’s about the journey not the destination. So don’t delay, hope on board and take a ride on the “Caravana Sereia Bloom”.