Berimbaudrum’s First Anniversary!

*Yippee! We made it! Berimbaudrum is now 1 year old! When we think that only 5% of blogs survive after 3 months, while the rest is abandoned and forgotten by their writers, this is a milestone to be celebrated. I often talk about Berimbaudrum as a World Music Online Magazine. I think it sounds better. Technically, it is a blog, a glorified blog perhaps, but nevertheless a blog. However, one of the achievements of the last 12 months was getting credibility with the audience, musicians and their promoters, who don’t seem to care if I say “blog” or “online magazine”.

It is reassuring to see that at least 70% of you come back every month and actively engage through sharing, commenting and pressing the “like” button. In terms of total number of visitors, Berimbaudrum is still modest in the scale of an over-inflated websphere, but these numbers represent real people with a shared passion for music. This brings to my mind another very important reward: as a result of Berimbaudrum, in the past year I met really pleasant, sensitive, talented and humble human beings. They are all people who inspired me with their courage, inner strength, grit and sense of adventure – important qualities in a profession that is so essential to our well-being and cultural identity, but not always appreciated.

My first proposal was to invert the tables and talk about World Music from a perspective different from those who first created the label “World Music”. What I told everybody, and myself, was that I wanted to promote the Brazilian culture beyond stereotypes, while showing that the music from anywhere could be connected to everywhere, even to the music made in a little Island in the South of England , an island that is by the way one of the most promising creative hubs in the United Kingdom. But what I did not tell anyone, not even to myself, was that this was a reflective work resulting from trying to understand and accept a conflicting merging within my own cultural identity: the one of a Brazilian living in Britain, who grew up listening to far too much British music, with the one of a British person born in Brazil, learning to appreciate rhythms that had been hardly played in the mainstream media of my birth country while growing up. I put on my Carmen Miranda’s Tutti Frutti hat and I enjoyed!

The moment for such an introspective trip could not have been better. Music is now one of the main drivers of the digital economy. Just as new musical styles, in the 20th century, came to take over the world through the technologies of mass communications, the web is enabling a faster musical evolution with the appearance of styles such as Mango Beat. It is also allowing the rebirth of previously forgotten cultural expressions such as the Cordel, a rhyming speech style that reached its zenith during the decades of the 20th and 30th in the Northeast Brazil, containing many similarities to the original Bronx Rapping from the 1970s New York.

Social Media has made easier to contact musicians directly to get material to write about. Something that in the previous century would be more like Dorothy trying to get an audience with the Wizzard of Oz. They generously allowed me to hitchhike on their fan base train and travel many miles with an active, independent and sophisticated bunch of music lovers.

During this trip, I was dazzled by the pioneering work of Babilak Bah, with his Orchestra of Hoes and his initiative of connecting music with mental health, a work that has led to the launch of the Train Tan Tan, a spirited band consisted of former mental health patients. Makely Ka, another Brazilian musician, stunned me with his project of travelling by bicycle through the Brazilian backlands while researching and recording traditional musical styles. Equipped with a laptop, which was powered by hours of cycling, Makely kept his fans and supporters updated daily with stunning landscape pictures and written accounts of his experience. Titane, Paulinho Pedra Azul and Tizumba gave me the same joy while writing about their work. Then there were also out of the box bands such Graveola and Banda Previsao do Tempo, promising a type of musical revolution reminiscent of the Tropicalia movement. Back in the Isle of Wight, I was enchanted by the music of Ben Stubbs, Yours&Mine , the blues of David Hughes and the magic of Joe Caudwell with his didgeridoo act, which I have been planning to write about for months.

In this learning experience, I was exposed to the musical renaissance coming from Africa, represented by bands such as Mokoomba. Then I was shamelessly stars-trucked by meeting legends such as Milton Nascimento and Courtney Pine, who were just like shamans on the stage. It has been definitely a long and rewarding trip which I don’t know when or if will ever stop. Sometimes it has been difficult to describe the whole experience without resorting to a carnival of superlatives and split infinitives. The itinerary for the next 12 months is already half full with a number of innovative musicians. I wish I already had written about them.

I will now finish this reflection, on the first anniversary of Berimbaudrum, by paying homage to Afunakwa, a women from the Solomon Islands. In 1969 , she was recorded singing a lullaby by an ethnomusicologist. Lullabies are for most of us, our very first and most significative experience with music . And they do exist in every culture…

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2 Responses to “Berimbaudrum’s First Anniversary!”

  1. That your explorations led you to Afunakwa amazed me, it’s not easy to find information about her. The ethnomusicologist who recorded her, Hugo Zemp, used the fact that there was insufficient consultation between artist and singer or community-of-origin to raise the moral rights question for the field recording community. Congratulations on your anniversary, I hope to have time to read your thoughts about music in the year to come!

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