June 15, 2011

Mestre Amen Santo and Mestre Val Boa Morte

(Mestre Amen Santo and Mestre Val Boa Morte)

Yesterday I had the most amazing rehearsal!

Working with Mestre Amen, and having known him for many years, I have come to learn and appreciate to expect the unexpected…

Since the beginning of the year, as you know, Mestre Amen and I have been working on building my repertoire of candomblé rhythms and songs. For the last several weeks, we have been working on a special public presentation to be performed at Capoeira Batuque’s annual batizado, or graduation ceremony taking place all this week and coming weekend.

I arrived at the new studio space of Brasil Brasil Cultural Center for our weekly meeting. We were supposed to be joined—for the first time since beginning this apprenticeship—by a few cohorts so that we could complete the drum section and run the program with a couple of dancers. These rhythms are properly executed only when played by four musicians playing percussion and singing, including three atabaques (drums) and one agogô (double bell).

I was expecting to see my fellow capoeira colleagues and longtime students of Mestre Amen joining us to complete the group for the rehearsal. Once inside the studio, I found Mestre Amen, and two visiting mestres, Mestre Val Boa Morte from Australia (Capoeira Filhos da Bahia), and Mestre Tonho Matéria from Salvador (Capoeira Mangangá). Both gentlemen are originally from Mestre Amen’s hometown of Salvador da Bahia and accomplished musicians. Mestre Tonho, in fact, has even performed with the legendary Bahian groups Ara Kêtu and Olodum.

While we waited for the dancers to arrive the mestres began to play around on the drums. Still thinking that the colleagues I was originally expecting were going to arrive at any moment, I approached the drums. Then, in his most typically casual manner, Mestre Amen asks me to sit at one of the drums to play the part. Mestre Tonho and Mestre Val then flank me on both sides, each taking a drum with Mestre Amen commanding the agogô. I could almost see a smirk on Mestre Amen’s face as they simply launched right into the repertoire that we would be performing for the batizado.

Mestre Amen Santo, Mestre Tonho Matéria, Beto González, Mestre Val Boa Morte, and friend

(Mestre Amen Santo, Mestre Tonho Matéria, Beto González, Mestre Val Boa Morte and Salamata Diallo)

For the next hour and a half, I had the privilege of accompanying three mestres, all masters of their tradition. Aside from the occasional gaffe, I believe I actually held my own.

(playing samba de caboclo)

(playing for Xangô)

I couldn’t have asked for a better lesson!