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An Afro-Brazilian Carnaval beat is coming to Midtown Sacramento

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If the the music you think of when you hear the words "Brazilian Carnaval" is the traditional samba played during the parades of Rio de Janeiro, you may be in for a surprise if you go to the Carnaval show taking place at the YMCA on 17th Street on Feb. 16.

During the show, which was organized by the The Brazilian Center For Cultural Exchange Of Sacramenton, the drums will be a bit heavier, the rhythms funkier, and the dancing, a little more freeform.

"People outside of Brazil, they think Brazil is only traditional samba with girls dancing with small bikinis and a lot of feathers", said Ney Rios of BatuAxe, one of the bands scheduled to perform. "But we do it different, we try to show the other side of Brazil. We have a rich tradition, a rich culture. We can show more than just people shaking the booty."

Rios, who spoke with The Sacramento Press over the phone, is a guest of the San Francisco band  "Tambores Julio Remelexo." Local groups including Mistura Brasileira Samba Dance Co., Henna and Kohl Bellydance Co. and Agua de Beber Capoeira will also play. 

Rios now lives in Los Angeles, but is originally from Salvador, a city in the northeast of Brazil that is capital of the state of Bahia and the center of Afro-Brazilian culture and music.

Before Rios came to the United States seven years ago, he sang for Olodum, a percussion ensemble and culutral activist group that pioneered a highly danceable combination of samba and reggae called, predictably, Samba-Reggae, and was featured in a Michael Jackson video for the song, "They don’t really care about us."

Rios will be on stage with at least four drummers for the Sacramento show, and all that percussion will be there with one purpose in mind.

"Brazilian music, especially music from Bahia, is music to dance," he said.

The genre draws its meter (6/8) and some of its rhythmic base from Candomble, the Afro-Brazilian religion that developed in a way similar to the way Voodoo did in Haiti and New Orleans, or Santeria in Cuba – as a syncretic mix of West African religion and Catholicism. During part of the typical Candomble ceremony, followers enter into a trance-like state as they "receive the spirit" and perform the dance of their patron saint or deity.

For Rios, this connection is important, as it is part of the heritage of his music. "The Candomble ceremony has to have the music or people are not going to receive the spirit," he said. "The music is connected with Candomble and Candomble is connected with the music."

While some of the rhythms may go back centuries, the Samba-Reggae that Rios plays includes a few Bob Marley covers, and can draw from funk or even hip-hop. It’s a cross-genre, cross-generational fusion that is uniquely Afro-Brazilian, and may be new for some of the Sacramentans at the show on the sixteenth.

"They are going to see something different, they are going to feel a different groove, from what they usually see, or usually hear," Rios said. "They are going to want to go to the next show. I promise, it’s going to be a lot of fun."

You don’t need to know how to actually samba either: just move to the beat. When you feel the force of the Surdo, the big Brazilian bass drum, vibrating your chest, it may be hard to contemplate doing anything else.

"I don’t have to ask anybody to dance – the music is going to call them to dance," Rios said. "It has a lot of percussion, it has a lot of drums. It’s African music. The people at this show are going to be happy because we’re going to make them dance all night long."

The Brazilian Carnaval in Sacramento takes place on February 16 at the YMCA at 1122 17th St., Sacramento. Doors open at 8:00 PM. Tickets are $15 advance/ $20 door admission. The show also features performances by Ney Rios, "Tambores Julio Remelexo the local groups including Mistura Brasileira Samba Dance Co., Henna and Kohl Bellydance Co. and Agua de Beber Capoeira. Traditional Brazilian food and Caipirinha cocktails will be available for purchase. For tickets and information visit www.braziliancentersac.org or call 916-387-7344.

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