Tale of Two Nations Tour Brings Brazilian Maracatu to Big Night in Little Haiti

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When you combine the traditional percussive powers of Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante with the rhythmic vibes of Nation Beat, the result is a mega carnival that'll keep you dancing the samba til o nascer do sol.

"It's an epic experience," brags Scott Kettner of Nation Beat and Maracatu New York. "That's all I can say. It's a lot of fun dancing, drumming, and singing."

Nation Beat has been drumming to the beat of maracatu since 2005 and has already reached several milestones... Like performing with Willie Nelson.

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"It was a lot of fun actually," Kettner recalls. "On Nation Beat's Legends of the Preacher, we recorded a Hank Williams song and a Willie Nelson song, but with a really funky, African-Brazilian rhythm on it. We had a feature on NPR and Willie heard it, liked it, and asked us to play with him. It was a blast."

The guys (and dame) of Nation Beat were also the first contemporary band to record with Estrela Brilhante, one of the most well-respected maracatu crews in the globe.

And the Tale of Two Nations tour with Nation Beat and Estrela Brilhante going down August 16, during Big Night in Little Haiti, marks, he says, "the first time in history that a traditional maracatu group has performed in the U.S."

For over 100 years, Estrela Brilhante has been an emblem of the Afro-Brazilian culture in northeastern Brazil. "It goes back to the days of slavery," explains Kettner, who has lived and breathed the Brazilian culture since becoming a jazz student at the New School.

"Maracatu is a traditional Brazilian drumming technique," explains Kettner. "Alfaia [the traditional maracatu drum] is made out of a tree trunk, animal skin, usually goat skin, and rope, so it's really all from the earth. It's like thunder coming at you.

"And then you have all the dancers. They dress up like the Portuguese monarchy because at the time, the only way they can play drums on the street is if they dressed up like the Portuguese court. They [slaves] were really mocking the Portuguese, but [the Portuguese] thought they were paying tribute to them. To this day, traditional maracatu groups maintain the history of it."

As for Nation Beat, "We are an extension of those traditions. We make it a conscious effort to preserve the traditional elements, but always moving forward.

"This tour is about bringing traditional together with contemporary."

Big Night in Little Haiti: Tale of Two Nations Tour. With Nation Beat and Maracatu Nação Estrela Brilhante. 6 p.m., Friday, August 16. Little Haiti Cultural Center, 212 NE 59th Terr., Miami. The show is free. Call 305-960-2969, or visit rhythmfoundation.org.

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