Batala Begins in New York City
Stacy and Laura met Angus Sutherland in Brazil in 2012. He was an interesting guy who could sleep through anything. Angus chain smoked cigarettes and what I remember most is his smile with his gnarly, yellow cracked teeth. He was a real sweetheart, and explained all things Batala to me. After all, he was the graphic designer for the organization and is responsible for its look and images.
He told me the history of the Batala house, the history of the organizations relationship with Batala Washington DC, and how things work. Basically, I am on my own. I have to fund the band on my own, I have to learn everything to do with music and choreo on my own, unless I choose to travel to other Batala Bands to do so.
Politics of Batala
Angus politely explained that I won’t be respected unless I travel-which means I’ll be going to Europe a lot because that’s where Batala is based from. I learned in fact, Batala is not technically a Brazilian Organization. Yes, Giba is Brazilian, but all business matters are handled by the folks either in the UK or France. My main contact would be Paulo from Batala Brasilia as he is responsible for North and South America Batala bands. However, as I already learned, he wasn’t that reliable in terms of communication. Angus seemed to really want to help.
He became a close ally to me when I needed advice or an answer. Sadly, he passed away a few years later.
Batala NYC gets a bangin’ start
So, we came back from Bahia with 35 drums! Now it was time to set out to start this crazy thing. I really had no idea what to expect. I had a plan, and that plan was to recruit. My bigger goal was to be the biggest Batala in the world. This was NYC! Of course that is possible! 9 million people live here.
I had already bought the domain for BatalaNYC way back in November 2011, and had a website for it already up and running to get that SEO and historical memory! We printed recruiting postcards and flyers to post all over the city. Back in 2012, while social media was around, it wasn’t as used as it is today. We literally went around to coffee shops, music studios, colleges, gyms, and anywhere we could place these postcards.
Friday, March 9th 2012 we had our first meet and greet at a space at 295 Douglass Street, in Brooklyn!
This was what was sent out to our mailing list:
On Friday, March 9th from 7:30 PM -10:30 PM, we are having our first general meeting at The Gowanus Arts Bulding, 3rd Floor, 295 Douglass Street (between 3rd and 4th Avenues), Brooklyn, NY. We will have some snacks, show some videos, and have drums there for everyone to try out and play. This will also be an information session, so come with questions! Bring friends!
Subsequent rehearsals are scheduled on Saturday mornings from 10am to 12:30pm at 68 Jay Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn-F train to York, or A/C to High Street.
BatalaNYC’s goal is to be ready to perform publicly in Make Music NY on June 21st in addition to many parades, street fairs, parties, boat shows, and other events. BatalaNYC will be performing at the Annual Brazil Independence Day event on 46th St. in Manhattan over the 2012 Labor Day weekend.
What a great evening it was at our meet and greet! We started with a power cord crisis which required an emergency trip to Radio Shack at 7:20pm, but all was well.
A whopping 20 spectacular women show up with such enthusiasm! We all jammed with the drums! It was exciting and Everyone picked it up so fast! I had the thought at the time: We’ll be up dancing and playing in no time, I can feel it. It was exciting and scary.
Next up was a drum assembly party at my apartment! That was on March 24th, 2012. People came over, learned how to put drums together and we ate a lot of snacks.
March 31st 5 of us took a road trip to Batala Washington again! We had a rehearsal at 10am, and then went with the DC Batalettes to what they called a “guerilla show”.
Our first official rehearsal was on Saturday April 7th 2012 at 68 Jay Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn….. in a small basement space. It was really fun. We learned Eurostar!
On May 5th, we had our first outdoor rehearsal in Brooklyn Bridge Park. Unfortunately, our permit was revoked due to noise complaints-which would be the first of many headaches over rehearsal space here in NYC. This was the first rehearsal Deinya came to.
Then, May 19th we had a joint rehearsal with Batala Washington-16 of their members so nicely drove up to NYC. We were indoors for a few hours, and then took it outside to a park in Gowanus.
We had gigs to prepare for! Batala Washington was coming up to NYC and we got a permit to play downtown with them. It was our first (unofficial) show-we played with them AND joined them in the Puerto Rican Day parade! Our first show was on Atlantic Ave and then on June 21st it was Make Music NY in Sara Roosevelt park. Stay tuned!