Batala NY, Batala New York City (Batala NYC) initial visit with Batala Washington!
It all started that morning at 4am on December 17th, 2011. My alarm went off at 4am and I got up and drove down to DC for a 9am surdo workshop and a 9:45am rehearsal at John Marshall Park at 333 Constitution Avenue N.W. Washington D.C. 20001.
It was a smooth easy drive down to DC that morning, and found parking immediately.
I parked near a coffee shop, got some breakfast and heard the sounds of surdos in the distance. It was reverberating off of the walls of the DC buildings and was music to my ears.
After a breakfast sandwich and coffee, I walked up to about 20 individuals playing surdos reviewing their parts. It was my first time seeing a Batala drumming rehearsal and I was super excited about it. Alison Rodden was teaching, and slowly the other members started showing up and getting ready for rehearsal. It was a cold, cloudy morning, we could see our breath!
When the surdos were done, I walked over to Alison and introduced myself. I was surprised to hear that nobody in the Batala drumming world had informed her that 1. There was a Batala starting in New York and 2. I was coming down to observe. How awkward! But….you will soon learn that most things within the world of Batala were not communicated.
After that initial discomfort and surprise, we talked briefly about what she would be reviewing during rehearsal. We discussed how excited she was to learn of Batala NY starting!
They started with a song called Catalatuteto which was super groovy. I remember seeing random folks who were walking dogs, or running, come by, stop for a few minutes, smile, maybe dance, and then leave.
Check out the video Stacy took of them learning “Catulatuteto”.
Rehearsal lasted until about 1pm. I was able to get in on a surdo 2 for about 30 minutes while they played a mini-set of their repertoire. One song they played was Reggae-La. It was super fun.
After the rehearsal, I was invited out to lunch with some of the “bata-lettes” as they called themselves-Jessica, Jewel, Alison, Wynter and some others. I learned a lot, mostly about my planned upcoming trip to Salvador da Bahia, Brazil for Carnival with Mundo Batala.
I remember driving back ecstatic about what I had experienced and when I got home to Brooklyn I quickly started coming up with a game plan to start Batala NYC officially. It was an inspiring visit with those incredible women.
When I returned from DC, I met with the other co-founders, Laura, Anne, Simone, and Vivian and had some productive conversations about our plans for Batala NYC. We were also invited down to another rehearsal in January, and I also went for a gig that they called a “guerilla show”–meaning they would pop up in a neighborhood and just start playing! The plan was in motion, we needed the drums and equipment, and most importantly-training!
Next Stop: Salvador da Bahia, Brazil for Carnival with Cortejo Afro!