Batalá New York is a part of a global arts project made up of over 30 bands around the world. The music of Batalá originates in Salvador, the capital of the state of Bahia, in northeastern Brazil. The international Batalá family owes its existence to Giba Gonçalves, a percussionist, composer and choreographer from Salvador. Our instruments and costumes are all made in Salvador. The main musical genre we play is samba-reggae.
Batalá has a presence in Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, and Africa. The name derives from the Portuguese phrase bata lá, meaning “hit [a drum] over there,” and is also a nod in tribute to Obatalá (Oxalá), the Candomblé deity who is the father of all the orixás.
In 1998 in Salvador, renowned Bahian artist and cultural figure Alberto Pitta, a longtime friend of Batala founder Giba Gonçalves’, founded a bloco afro called Cortejo Afro. Because of the close collaboration and friendship between the leadership of the two bands, Batalá and Cortejo Afro share some music and rhythms.
In 2020, Batalá New York is sending a group of nine women to Brazil to participate in Lavagem do Bonfim, a pilgrimage to the church of the Lord of Bonfim and ritual to cleanse the path to the church. The trip is entirely volunteer-based and is in need of supplemental funding to help these women connect to the culture behind the music. We need your help for the group to raise $21,250 to cover just a portion of the costs associated with this trip:10 WOMEN - $21,250
$1,575 - Roundtrip flight to and from Brazil in January, when Lavagem do Bonfim occurs
x 10 = $15,750
$250 - Travel stipend for a portion of the cost to get around Brazil for performances
x10 = $2,500
$300 - Food stipend for a portion of meals on the trip
x10 = $3,000
Every dollar counts. Your gift, no matter the size, will go directly towards sending these women to Brazil. According to Musical Director Deinya Phenix, "Batalá, more than any other project I’m involved with now, has connected me with my ancestors. Including those who have brought African religion, and traditions from the motherland to the Americas. I travel to Brazil often and one thing I’ve noticed since participating in Batalá is that the African traditions are expressed differently in each place where slaves were taken. Brazil happens to be one of the most conscious places as far as the African traditions of my ancestors. Connecting with this music has awakened a consciousness in me, a racial conscious that I didn’t have before."
In addition to BATALA New York Musical Director Deinya Phenix (pictured above) read more below about the rest of the incredible women you would be sending to Brazil to reignite a connection with and to the music they are inspired by weekly: JESS BELDONPlays dobra. Has Been in Batala for 1 year.
Two of my life’s passions are music and travel.
I discovered Batalá New York by following the sounds of rhythmic percussion to get a glimpse at the ensemble who was making such beautiful, energizing music. I navigated my way through the crowd to find a diverse group of women playing with such joy and passion that I knew immediately I needed to find a way to join.
I expected to work hard and to be challenged to play music that I was not familiar with playing, but what I didn’t expect was to find a group of women as supportive as they are talented. The next step in my musical progression is to immerse myself in the rich history and culture in order to connect and respect the
Travel is my way of filling gaps in my cultural understanding. It serves as a way to open my heart and mind to new experiences and liberate myself from separation and ideology. Protecting human rights means that we must actively champion cultural diversity, and today’s global climate necessitates the respect and understanding of one another in order to ensure that our future is more peaceful than our past.
“The destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -- Henry MillerMARNITA BILLUPS
Plays dobra. Has been in Batala for one year.
I have been a band member of Batala New York for one year and this journey of playing and dancing Afro Brazilian rhythms has been the most soul connecting experience of my life. I have been studying movement from the African Diaspora for 7 years, but standing on the other side of dance to learn and play these rhythms has made me appreciate the movement so much more. Now, I not only feel a deeper connection to who I am, but my love for dance and drumming informs how I live my life.
I have always been captivated by rhythm and dance as long as I can remember. The opportunity to travel to Brasil and be completely immersed in the pulsating heart of Afro Brazilian culture in Bahia would be a dream come true. Learning about and digging deeper into my ancestral roots would be an honor. I'm so inspired by the prospect of studying, training and exploring the many dimensions of Lavagem do Bonfim.
Please consider donating to help me take this timely and divine voyage to Brasil so that I can continue on with my soul seeking journey of growing and learning. When I return to NYC, I will spread the spirit of Alegria as far as my reach can possibly go! Obrigada.
"Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen."
– Michael JordanROSLYN CAMPBELLPlays Repique, Dobra, and Caixa. Has been in BATALA for 7 years, 3 months, and currently serves as the Board President
With your help I’M FINALLY GOING TO BRAZIL!!!!!!!
I joined Batala New York in 2012--the year it started in New York City. At that time, I had been living in New York for 6 years and was still trying to find my tribe. I had always been active in the performing arts in some way, shape or form. If I’m not making music with something, singing in something, or acting out on a stage somewhere, I am not happy.
A former colleague introduced me to Batala New York. I was immediately drawn to the sound of the drums, the vivid costumes, the choreography, and the fact that it was ALL WOMEN!!!
Joining Batala was like finding my long lost sisterhood. I was overjoyed to have the privilege of being part of it.
Although I was drawn in by the sound of the drums, the meaning of it all eluded me. I was not at all familiar with Brazilian music, arts, or culture. As an African American woman, my knowledge of afro culture outside of the Black American diaspora is painfully limited and uninformed. Two years ago, I took a class on Samba music. I went through a spiritual awakening when I learned how the roots of Afro Brazilian Samba Reggae music goes all the way back to the stolen and enslaved people who were brought to Brazil from Africa.
It never dawned on until then how much this music connected me to my stolen ancestors in the African diaspora. How and why I felt so moved by some of the rhythms we play in Batala finally made sense. The music is familiar to me because it is part of my unconscious memory, passed on by my ancestor cousins, aunties, uncles, brothers, and sisters.
Now I FINALLY have the opportunity to travel to Bahia, Brazil to lay my feet on the ground of my extended ancestral family and learn about the spirit and culture of the music I have been sharing with my adopted city.
The money raised for this trip will help me bring a consciousness of knowledge to playing the music that is a legacy to my ancestors, and honoring their lives as I live in the reality the prayed, hoped, dreamed, drummed and died for me to have. I am wholeheartedly thankful for every donation towards our collective goal!KIMBERLY COLEMAN TAVARESPlays repique and surdo. Has been in Batala for two years.
My name is Kimberly C. Tavares, and I am a member of Batala New York, an Afro -Brazilian reggae samba band. I first saw Batala New York at an Afro Latino Festival in Brooklyn, New York. I saw a large group of dynamic drummers and noticed a woman that I had grown up within Los Angeles was a part of it. I was raised by a musician and music has always been a focal part of my life. I was mesmerized by the rhythms of the women playing the music. In 2017, I found that my life had become stagnant at least artistically and I was looking for an avenue to convey my emotions.
My mother had died several years prior and since her death I had been walking with some emptiness. I contacted my friend and asked about the group and the rest is history. Once I started playing, I immediately connected with the music and experienced a rebirth in a sense, in that I was able to channel all of my emotions and creativity in to playing and learning this beautiful art form and honor my mother through it. It has truly been an amazing experience. I have always been interested in Afro Brazilian culture and would like to go to Bahia Brazil to learn more about the culture, rhythms, and people. Batala New York is a part of a larger organization known as Batala Mundo, a global arts project in which people from all over the world are playing rhythms and pieces with roots in. Bahia. Batala Mundo will be hosting an amazing percussion workshop which will allow drummers from all over the world to celebrate this culture.LUNA DELGADOPays dobra. Has been in Batala 10 months.
My name is Luna Delgado A. As a child I always liked music. Now, in my late twenties, discovering Batalá and being able to join the band has become a life transformation for me. I can say by experience--it's never too late to start learning something new. Taking this trip to Brazil is so important to me. It will allow me to discover and explore the artistic part within me that is not yet satisfied, and more importantly, will give me the opportunity to learn about the origins of the Afro-Brazilian rhythms I have started to connect to so frequently in this new, exciting chapter in my life.VERONICA DOUGHERTY
Plays dobra and repique. Been in Batala for five years.
I've been a musician and dancer for most of my life. In 2014, having never played drums before, I had a sudden (and random-seeming) desire to play in an all-female identified drum corps. In May of that year, I heard Batalá playing post-Dance Parade. Dream met reality and I have never looked back! My first love was the dobra (or surdo tercero for Samba players). Almost two years ago I began playing the repique, which is in constant conversation with the dobra. It's been 5 years and I'm still at the beginning of understanding how all the drums knit together the fabric of this music.
Batalá New York has been transformative for me. It introduced me to Afro-Brazilian music, specifically the music of Bahia, and the incredible community of teachers and performers holding this culture here in New York. I'm learning about the story of enslaved African people and their descendants, and how culture is carried forward despite oppression, in a visceral, physical way. This music tells the stories, and our drums and bodies are the voice. Being able to take part is humbling and inspiring to me. We are a collective of women from all backgrounds and walks of life who learn, grow, support each other, meet challenges, and exceed our expectations as a team, and whose reason for being is to honor this music. This is music of Black Liberation, and (as a teacher once told me) Black Liberation uplifts everyone.
After 5 years playing with Batalá, it's time to visit the birthplace of Samba Reggae and learn from the people that gifted us this music. In 2020, unlike in years past, a solid cohort from Batalá New York is able to make the trip. feel like this is important for the growth of the band and in my growth personally as a Samba Reggae percussionist. It's important to do now because of how many of us are able to make the trip together - which means collectively becoming more grounded in and conscious of the history and traditions of this music, and each of us deepening our connections to it. We can bring back this consciousness and connection to inform our band's culture. As more and more members join, this culture building is crucial. HAVANNA FISHER
Havanna Fisher is an emerging interdisciplinary artist and designer from Harlem who works across the fields of design, performing arts and film. She has a profound interest in using her skills and gifts to combine the arts with education to bring about political awareness and thus probable change within the American landscape of ideological identity as well as creating a holistic approach to living life together. The basis for this deep enriched passion in community service via the arts stems from her experiences growing up in Harlem. During her time at The New School, her senior thesis called Sankofa Sankofa served as a wearable memorial to those that were taken and lost during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. She also co-founded Sisters Art Solan (SAS), a student organization that is geared towards women of color artists. Havanna currently works with the Parsons Scholars Program as a Youth Advocate. She was also the Harlem artist resident for 2016 at the Landormant Project where her project “Harlem Motion” used a series of exploratory stop animation workshops as a vehicle to reshape the conversation around the gentrification happening in Harlem. Community members created and shared their stories as well as connect with neighbors in the midst of a changing Harlem. Havanna’s most recent current project is called “The Cotton Series” which emerged from her senior dance thesis while attending Eugene Lang. “The Cotton Series” debuted at Movement Research at Judson Church Fall of 2017. The Cotton Series is a collection of dance works that explores Black women’s lives as they live in America and how their sisterhood support their survival. ARIELLE ROSALES
Olá! My name is Arielle. I am the newest repique (a small, loud, powerful and challenging drum that leads many of the patterns in our music) player of Batalá New York. As a flamenco dancer, I was called to this group through the universal language of rhythm and dance. The more I learn about the rich culture of the people from Bahia and the spiritual practice behind the timeless rhythms we play, the more profound and essential it becomes to experience this culture directly.
As New Yorkers, we pride ourselves on being the international art and culture capital of the world. But as an Afro-Brazilian Samba Reggae band, it is imperative that Batala New York maintain a direct and deep connection to the source of our work. The practice of cultural exchange promotes a holistic level of empathy within a world where true coexistence has become endangered. By donating to this cause, you are providing the opportunity for a group of women leaders to return to the United States and uphold our band mission with a level of integrity that only a first-hand experience in Bahia can provide. Help us get to Brazil!LINDA TECHELL
Ms. Techell is an educator, social worker and former program administrator with excellent planning, organizing/training, and coordinating skills. Ms. Techell is a licensed social worker with Master’s degrees in both Social Work and Special Education. She attended L.I.U. - C.W. Post and C.U.N.Y. - Hunter College. She has extensive experience with families affected by trauma through her past work and her current work, as a psychiatric social worker.
In 2004, she began learning shekere from the Women of the Calabash for two years. Attending classes at Westbeth. She then began to play Afro-Brazilian percussion in 2007 following her first trip to Brazil (Salvador). She joined Manhattan Samba, learning chocalho and 2nd Surdo. In 2010, she joined Maracatu New York and learned agogo, agbe and alfaia. She now spends her time focusing on learning the afro Brazilian music of Bahia, Rio and Pernambuco.