Batala in Washington, D.C. is part of a larger Batala family created in 1997 by Mestre Giba Gonçalves. Born and raised in Salvador, Bahia in Northeast Brazil, Giba was living in Paris when he first had the idea for creating the band. He opened the band to anyone with an interest in learning the samba-reggae beat, starting off with 60 people.
From Paris, Batala spread to other cities in France, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. In 2003, the band finally made its way back to Brazil by Paulo Garcia, also the founder of Batala Portsmouth in the UK. Composer and musical director, Giba enlisted the help of friends from the various bands and from Salvador in order to create the visual identity of the band. The instruments and clothings are all manufactured in Salvador, Bahia, where the band has a social program that gives jobs to many families. From there they are shipped to the bands around the world.
In 2007, Batala expanded its reach to the United States when Batala Washington became the first band created in North America and also the first Batala band with all female members from its leadership to its members. Today, Batala Mundo (the worldwide conglomerate of Batala bands) has over hundreds of percussionists members around the world.
“I think music has no frontiers. You don’t deny access. It’s like your children, you shouldn’t keep your children for yourself. You should give them to the world.” — Mestre Giba Gonçalves
Born Margareth Menezes da Purificação, on October 13, 1962, in Boa Viagem, the Peninsula region of Itapagipe in Salvador. She is an internationally known, award-winning Brazilian pop star, but her music genre is predominantly the axé, samba-reggae, and samba-funk music of Bahia. From an early age, Menezes was surrounded by music, through her family’s love for it, and in her teens she began performing in the trios elétricos in Bahia’s Carnaval. In 1985, at the age of 21, she won the Troféu Caymmi for the Best Female Performer of Bahia, and she would win it again in the 1990s along with the Troféu Imprensa. Four years later, she recorded her first solo album dedicated to Bahian grooves. Her second album, Elegibô (Uma Historia de Ifá), stayed in first place for 11 weeks on the American charts in the World Music category. It was also awarded by Billboard magazine and Rolling Stone magazine appointed the album as one of the five best in the world in the same category. Other big hits include Me Abraça e Me Beija and Kindala. She is credited and appreciated for bringing the music of Bahia to the world.
Blocos-Afro and Afoxé groups are community organizations that reinforce pride in African heritage and culture through music and dance. Started in Salvador, the blocos also have a social and political mission focused on the upliftment of the Afro-Brazilian community.
Olodum, Ilê Aiyê, Muzenza, Malê de Balê, Filhos de Gandhy, Ara Ketu, Cortejo Afro, Timbalada, and Didá (pictured below) are among the most popular groups that have survived since the late 70s and early 80s. While the afoxés are not political, the blocos are due to their concerns with resistência cultural (cultural resistance) issues such racism in education, employment, etc. Yet at the same time, the many blocos aim to reach an international audience through its music to bring awareness of the culture and plight of Black Brazilians.