About Batalá New York

Batalá New York is a part of a global arts project made up of over 30 bands around the world. The music of Batalá originates in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil. The international Batalá family owes its existence to Giba Gonçalves, a percussionist, composer and choreographer from Salvador. The first representation of Batalá in New York City, known as ‘Batalá NYC,’ was born in 2012. In the summer of 2016, under new leadership, this band incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, now called simply ‘Batalá New York.’

Our instruments and costumes are all made in Salvador. The main musical genre we play is samba-reggae, a heavily percussion-based form that typically employs the five drums played in Batalá:

The biggest surdo, sometimes called the primeiro, plays on beats 1 & 3 and sets the tempo for the band. Combined with the surdo 2 beats, these are are called marcação, which means “marking,” in the sense of marking time.

The second-biggest drum, the segundo, or surdo resposta (“response”), responds to the surdo 1 with beats 2 & 4. Together, the two surdos or fundos create a “heartbeat.”

Also called the third surdo or terceiro, the dobra is unique to samba-reggae. It plays the “off beat” and other syncopated rhythms, cutting between the beats of the two larger bass drums with more complex rhythms and driving the band choreography.

Also called the repinique, this is the highest-pitched drum in the band. The repique “calls in” the other drums — the dobra in particular — and together, these two “melody drums” engage in frequent call-and-response “dialogues.”

The most familiar instrument to non-Brazilian audiences, this snare drum is the engine of the band, capable of playing with the most nuance and expression.

Batala Mundo

Percussionist, composer and choreographer Giba Gonçalves (pictured at left) moved from Bahia to Paris in the 1990s. There, in 1997, Giba founded a community percussion ensemble he called ‘Batalá.’ The name derives from the Portuguese phrase bata lá, meaning “hit [a drum] over there,” and is also a nod in tribute to Obatalá (Oxalá), the Candomblé deity who is the father of all the orixás. From Paris, Batalá quickly spread to other cities throughout Europe and the UK. The first Batalá band in the United States, Batalá Washington (D.C.), was founded in 2007.

Meanwhile, back home in Salvador, renowned Bahian artist and cultural figure Alberto Pitta, a longtime friend of Gonçalves’, founded a bloco afro called Cortejo Afro in 1998. Because of the close collaboration and friendship between the leadership of the two bands, Batalá and Cortejo Afro share some music and rhythms. Every year during Carnaval season in Brazil, members of Batalá bands from all over the world (including Batalá New York!) join ‘Cortejo’ to play side by side in the carnival parades in Salvador.

Batalá now has a presence in over 30 cities in Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. Click on the drums in the map to see where we are!