TF Archives

Batucada Sound Machine - Bigger The Better

Author: Melanie Lewis
Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The New Zealand collective with the Brazilian sound, Batucada Sound Machine, are heading our way, showcasing their Latin flavour at the Factory in February. 3D’s Melanie Lewis asked bandleader James Hughes how they and their sound came to pass, and why theirs is the party of inclusion. 

“It started off as a bit experimental…” muses James Hughes, drummer, percussionist and bandleader with Auckland’s Batucada Sound Machine.

“Then we got booked for The Sydney Festival where we played on this barge in the middle of Darling Harbour, in front of ten thousand people. That was our first trip to Aussie.” He pauses, remembering, and laughs, “We finally got a bit more serious from there.”

Until that point, the collective were a mixed bag of drum lovers who sporadically got together in a local nightclub to, you know, bang drums and that. James had bought the beat back with him from Brazil and, happily, found a group of like-minded individuals in The Land Of The Long White Cloud who were pretty keen to play along with him.  

“Batucada is a Brazillian style of drumming,” explains James. “And that encompasses samba, samba/reggae, a whole raft of other rhythms that you can play on percussion instruments only.” Bit more to it than just smacking your sticks together over your head and shouting “One! Two! One, two, three, four!” then. After a few jam sessions, with James directing the musical flow “carnivale style” with hand signals and whistles, word got out. Slowly, more musicians and performers started popping in. Evidently, the more the merrier.

“Batucada was, I guess, the roots of what we did originally and then we said, ‘let's add a DJ, let's add an MC, [MC Hazaduz of Che-Fu, no less], let's add a full band to that and try and create a mix.” They succeeded with the mix, but James admits that, “the challenge is there to make the mix authentic and make it sound like it's meant to be.”

They must have been doing something right. Before they’d even recorded an album, BSM toured Europe, played Womad (UK and NZ), The Edinburgh Festival (UK), The Sydney Festival as well as the Byron Bay Blues and Roots Festival and stacks of festivals in New Zealand. When it came time to record, a festival friendship they’d struck up with producer Neil Sparkes (Transglobal Underground/Temple of Sound) paid dividends. Neil headed to Auckland to help out before continuing to New York, with James, to have the album mixed and mastered by Lawrence Manchester in the legendary Avatar Studios.

Another festival friendship came in handy when BSM were looking for support acts for their upcoming Australian tour. “There's a small, and very unique, festival in New Zealand called Jambalaya: they bought Son Veneno out to New Zealand. Son Veneno are just incredible, from a musician’s point of view. They come from a Cuban/hip hop angle and we're more Brazillian, and a little less authentic than them. We do different things but there's a similar vein going through it. They're very proficient – we have mutual respect if you know what I mean.” Within 24 hours of The Factory gig, BSM will be on stage at the Canberra Carnivale, before gracing The Perth International Arts Festival the next day, home the next. No doubt, for some sleep.

WHO: Batucuda Sound Machine
WHAT: Play The Factory Theatre
WHEN: Friday 13 February