You might not understand the lyrics in Grupo Liberdade’s new song “Batucada do Sol,” sung in Portuguese by Amanda Soares and Poranguí, but the energy the seven-piece band transfers to its listeners is infectious. The Afro-Brazilian band, going strong for more than 10 years, mixes samba, samba reggae, coco, maracatu and batucada in their music, delivered by the group members who come everywhere from Brazil and Cuba, to Mexico and the U.S.
“Our cultural influences are present in the music, which is very percussive in nature, designed to move the body and soul and provide a very unique experience,” says Soares. The single’s title draws influences from both northern Brazil and the Arizona desert, of which Soares says, “Both places are very hot and full of life, music, dancing and diversity of thought and culture.”
The group will be playing live tracks and accompanying dancers with music during the upcoming second annual Rainha e Rei do Samba competition Saturday, October 3, at The Pressroom in Phoenix, which attracts samba performers from around the country. The group promises to leave listeners with a positive feeling after their performance.
“These instruments resonate with the body and the heart in a way that literally changes the energy in the room,” says band director, singer and multi-instrumentalist Poranguí. “Many of our fans have said how they always leave our live performances feeling better than when they arrived. This exemplifies the love we put into our sons and our sound, not just to entertain, but to help create positive change in our community.”
Soares and Poranguí talked more about the group and how they hope to impact Valley listeners.
New Times: How do you hope “Batucada do Sol" impacts listeners?
Poranguí: We wrote this song to tell the story of how the unique sound and energy of our group, Liberdade, came to be amidst the desert metropolis of Phoenix.
Soares: There is a lot of history stemming from these Afro-Brazilian rhythms, and from the African slaves who brought them to Brazil. Grupo Liberdade seeks to honor that fusion and continue to bring together rhythms from diverse cultural heritages, creating our own “mezcla.” Through music, we seek to create a culture of inclusiveness, honoring all beliefs, backgrounds, talents and ways of living.
Grupo Liberdade has always sought to embody and transmit a message of freedom of expression through the music, building community and uplifting the audience. “Batucada do Sol” will hopefully do just that, carrying the message of heart and joy when we let go of our inhibitions and fears and allow ourselves to celebrate the rich diversity of this great Valley of the Sol.
What do you hope to translate through your live performances as far as the energy you put into the songs?
Poranguí: Our live performances are where the spirit of the songs truly come to life. It’s one thing to hear a recording of Liberdade, but when you experience the vibration of these drums live, there is something profound that moves you unlike other sounds.
Soares: In fact, “Batucada do Sol” speaks to the interplay that always exists in our shows between the drums and the audience, and how the band and audience members communicate through music and dancing. The words of the song talk about how the grooves make the body move almost involuntarily ("o batuque que comanda o corpo, que faz remexer.") The song further invites audiences to fully experience the music, letting their bodies flow with the sound of the drums without inhibition.
For us in Grupo Liberdade, there's nothing more gratifying than seeing audience members experiencing the music through dance. Given that dance is at the core of Afro-Brazilian music, that's when we know we did our job effectively.
What can people expect from your group's performance at the samba competition?
Soares: We’re really excited to be part of this year’s Rainha e Rei do Samba competition. This event is organized by our sister dance company, SambAZ, which manages a nationally recognized samba troupe based here in Arizona. This competitions attracts the best samba performers from around the country, both male and female. It's a best in class kind of event and really an awesome testament to the diversity of culture in Arizona.
Poranguí: Grupo Liberdade will provide live music for the samba contestants to perform to during the competition. We will mostly be providing the rhythm section or “bateria,” much like what you would experience during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro. We will likely do a short set of original songs at the beginning of the event to open up the contest, and then it will be samba for the rest of the night, with some other dance groups performing as well.
New Times: What do you have planned as far as new releases?
Soares: The recordings we recently released were part of a live performance featured in the Emmy-nominated Songwriters’ Showcase, recorded at the Tempe Center for the Arts and nationally televised on PBS. We debuted “Batucada do Sol” in this performance and also featured other originals written by our group members, a total of four songs.
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Poranguí: We started tracking Grupo Liberdade’s debut album this summer and will be doing more over the coming year. "Batucada do Sol" and “Liberdade,” our anthem, will be featured on that release, hopefully by fall of 2016, if not sooner as singles or an EP.
Why would you encourage people to come to the Rainha e Rei do Samba competition?
Poranguí: The samba competition will give everyone a chance to feel some of the energy and excitement of Carnaval in Brazil where dancers from around the country come to showcase their best moves and costumes. It’s different than a typical Brazilian party in that the focus is on the dancers on stage and their struggle to win. Think of it as a Brazilian version of American Idol for samba dancers.
Soares: The dancers’ showmanship is similar to what one would experience in Rio de Janeiro every year during Carnaval. There’s much attention dedicated to the technique, choreography and costumes, and the music and musicality. The dance performances are quite remarkable. This event is guaranteed to make you feel like you were transported to Brazil during Carnaval.