New York City perseveres as an incredible musical melting pot reining in artistic influences from all across the globe. Accompanying the surging amalgamation of diverse genres, cultures and rhythms, Nation Beat introduces an unprecedented mix of northeastern Brazil’s maracatu and the sounds of the deep American South. Nation Beat artistic director/founder Scott Kettner, a graduate of The New School University (NYC) and a 2006 Latin Jazz Ambassador, follows the path of such Brazilian luminaries as Lenine and Chico Science, offering yet another anomalous contemporary interpretation of the traditional 19th century Pernembuco-born rhythm.
At the heart of Nation Beat lies the mergence of maracatu with New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues. As illustrated on their debut album, Maracatuniversal, Nation Beat parades with an indispensable audacious energy, and seamlessly bridges folkloric Brazilian rhythms with classic American roots music. As of late, rising Brazilian star Liliana Araujo fronts the ensemble with her soaring powerhouse vocals. A recent finalist on Brazil’s “American Idol” spin-off program FAMA (Rede Globo), Liliana Araujo is already garnering comparisons to the great Virginia Rodriguez. Rolling Stone Brazil (June 2007) ran a photo of Liliana Araujo when the publication listed Nation Beat’s “Old Wooden Chair” as the #1 track on their Hot List. Their explosive live show will certainly attract music fans from a wide demographic; Brazilian music lovers, folks who love to dance, Americana concertgoers and outdoor festival types.
Nation Beat distinctly embodies a flourishing cultural exchange between the favelas of Pernambuco and the boroughs of New York City. In 2001, upon Scott Kettner’s initial visit to Recife, he auspiciously met master maracatu percussionist Jorge Martins. A 2004 Latin Grammy nominee (w/ his group Cascabulho), the founder of the downtown Recife percussion school Corpos Percussivos, and a member of one of the oldest existing traditional maracatu groups Estrela Brihante (est. 1906), Jorge Martins unabashedly educated Kettner in maracatu. After several years of extensive study, Martins invited him to join Estrela Brihante. Together, they observed the striking similarities between the music of the favelas and the rhythms of New Orleans second line. It sparked an unruly enthusiasm to bring maracatu to NYC classrooms and in return, to have stateside percussion students travel to Recife.
In 2003, Kettner launched Maracatu New York and Nation Beat. The Brooklyn Arts Council awarded him two grants for inaugurating these projects. The funding afforded Jorge Martins the opportunity to lead maracatu classes in NYC, and directly benefited the kids studying at Corpos Percussivos. With over 40 students currently enrolled in Maracatu New York, the arts company celebrates its 5-year anniversary this year. Nation Beat traveled to Recife in 2005 becoming the first contemporary group in the world to record with a traditional maracatu group. Jorge Martins and Estrela Brihante appear alongside Nation Beat on Maracatuniversal. That same year, Kettner also brought 15 U.S. based percussion students to perform with Corpos Percussivos, marking the first American maracatu group to march in Carnival.
The abiding cultural connection initiated by Kettner and Martins caught the attention of New York City-based independent record label, MODIBA. Along with their humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur, work with Malian star Vieux Farka Toure and overall commitment to the social and economic empowerment of select international communities, Modiba is scheduled to put out their much-anticipated sophomore recording effort featuring 2007 Grammy Award winners The Klezmatics in June 2008. 10% of the proceeds from Maracatuniversal goes directly to Estrela Brihante for the development and preservation of arts and culture in Recife, Brazil. 10% of the proceeds from their forthcoming album will benefit Corpos Percussivos.
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