By Lindenberg Junior
The Batalá Project born in Paris, France, in 1997, by Giba Gonçalves, a Bahian percussionist that have played with Ilê Aiyê, Olodum, Muzenza, Kaoma and Jimmy Cliff, and founded as the European wing of Afrobloco “Cortejo Afro”, an arts education project to help underserved young people living in poor communities. The Los Angeles “Seeds” born under the direction of percussionist Mario Pallais and just after the group “seed” in San Francisco under the direction of Abel Damasceno.
Today, Batalá Paris is the oldest of all the international Batala contingents and Cortejo Afro and Batalá share much of the same repertoire since 1999. From its inception in Paris, individual Batalá organizations have sprung up all over the globe in countries such as England, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, Austria, Angola, South Africa, and The Netherlands. As we mentioned in a previous article, in the U.S, besides San Francisco and Los Angeles, there are seeds in Washington DC, founded in 2007, and New York, found in 2011.
The international movement shares the samba reggae musical arrangements and percussion breaks composed by Gonçalves as well as graphics, costumes, and dance movements. With a worldwide membership of over 800 drummers, the shared musical and artistic models facilitate the various groups to travel from country to country and participate in events together.
Batalá drums, sticks and mallets, drum straps, and costumes are produced in Salvador at Instituto Oya and Fabrica Batala under a fair trade agreement. The name Batalá carries a double reference to the phrase “bateu lá,” meaning “hit there” in Portuguese and to Obatalá (Oxalá), the Candomblé deity who is the father of the Orixas and of all humanity. Draped in the purity of white, Obatalá is the source of all that is peaceful and compassionate.
Batalá Los Angeles is led by director and percussionist Mario Pallais Mario, a licensed Hearing instrument specialist by the California Department of Consumer Affairs, and Batalá San Francisco by director and percussionist Abel Damasceno, and both in their respective cities, are in steps to partnership with non-profits organizations and arrange free drumming class to underprivileged kids.
Batalá Los Angeles have performed in different venues and event in Southern California as the Brazilian Day in Los Angeles and The Ford Amphitheater, and in many occasions performer with “angelano” bahian dance company Viver Brasil.