Batalá New York
Batalá New York Drummers
Batala New York City Samba-Reggae Percussion Band.
What is an All Women Samba Reggae Percussion Band-Batala New York Samba-Reggae Percussion Band?
Well, it’s exactly as it sounds. Batalá New York Drummers. City. The big apple. Women playing the music of Brazil, specifically the State of Bahia. For New York City that meant a whole new opportunity for women to learn to play the drums way back in 2011. However, not just any drums. This was the opportunity to learn to play the surdo, the dobra, the repinique, and the snare drum. An opportunity to join a community of women who each have individual political views, aesthetic views, community ideals, and attitudes toward speaking out and being loud. Women in the USA aren’t generally asked as little girls to play the drum. They are asked to try the flute or violin. Drumming is typically a “male dominated” musical endeavor.
Women Drummers in New York City. Who are they?
In 2011, Stacy Kovacs experiences Batala DC at Brazilian Day in NY. She decides it’s time to start her own musical group, for women, playing drums. After a few months of communication with the men who run Batala as an organization from Brazil, she went to Brazil to participate in Carnival with Cortejo Afro, an Afro-Bloco in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. At the time, she brought back 35 Batala drums to New York and put them together. Batala NYC took off. For 5 straight years Batala NYC continued to play at more and more events. They were becoming known as a party band in NYC, a wedding band in NYC, and an event band for all types of events. It was a great run.
The summer of 2016 proved difficult for members of Batala in New York. A small group of women within the band became frustrated with Stacy’s leadership style, and quietly gathered supporters to oust Stacy from her position as Director. What they forgot, was that Batala NYC was a business registered in the state of New York. All of the equipment including drums, belts, drum sticks, and costumes were owned by Stacy and Batala NYC LLC. They ultimately refused to return the equipment, because they wanted to continue Batala with new leadership.
Stacy was left no choice but to hire a lawyer to retrieve all of her equipment. After that, she shut down Batala NYC and rebranded it to FogoAzul NYC.
FogoAzul means Blue Fire in Portuguese.
And, as far as women drumming groups in New York, Batala New York City goes from Red to Blue.
Batala New York All Women Samba Reggae Percussion Band now co-exists alongside FogoAzul NYC. What’s the difference? FogoAzul NYC was formed due to the male dominated Batala structure. When one travels in the Mundo Batala world, it is inspiring to say the least. Tons of drummers from all over the world speaking different languages–come together to speak one language: Music. The friendships that are made, the foreign travel opportunities, the ability to say “I’m going to Paris to play drums.”… Sounds great? Well, when a woman director arrives to these meet ups, she is ignored, placed in the back, and not asked to conduct as often, or for as long as her male counterparts. Why? Nobody seems to know, or frankly, care to know. Also, of the 30+ Batala Samba Reggae Percussion Bands around the world, only 4 are all women. Of those 4, only 2 of them have the structure such that women run the day to day activities and make decisions for the band. Ultimately, the women just keep the “franchise”, or “McDrumming” as you will, alive.
Samba Reggae–is it only for men?
In a male dominated world of music, and especially drumming, women are often neglected. This is exactly why Stacy left Batala and started FogoAzul NYC. Not only was she sick of being treated differently by the Batala Maestro and administration, she wanted a COMPLETELY women run project. And that’s what FogoAzul NYC is. It’s a woman built small business in the state of New York, managed, directed, and designed by women. It’s women’s empowerment to the max.