The big bang! Massive drum ensemble celebrates three huge years

The big bang! Massive drum ensemble celebrates three huge years

Talk about a birthday bash!

A massive all-female Afro-Brazilian drum group bass-ed in Brooklyn is celebrating its third birthday with a show at Littlefield in Gowanus on May 16. The band’s co-founder said this will be the group’s biggest shindig yet.

“We had a party last year and we wanted to make it even bigger this year,” said Stacy Kovacs, musical director of Batala NYC.

And the band has plenty to celebrate. In its three years of existence, the group has opened for the Rolling Stones, graced the cover of female drummer magazine Tom Tom, and paraded through dozens of street festivals in New York City.

Batala NYC is just one of 31 Batala groups across the globe. Batala members all play one of four types of brightly colored drums, on which they bang out samba-reggae arrangements from the movement’s home in north-eastern Brazil.

Kovacs and assistant director Laura Torell founded the New York arm in 2012 after visiting Brazil to learn how it all works, and bringing 35 drums home with them.

Only 18 people came to the group’s first rehearsal in the basement of a Dumbo warehouse, but the band has since boomed to 86 members, with somewhere between 40 and 60 players joining in for most shows. The ensemble now has to rehearse in a school auditorium in Prospect Heights.

Kovacs said she wants to grow the brigade even larger and hopes to reach 150 drummers soon.

“In order to be bigger for each show, I have to saturate the amount of players we have,” she said.

Batala NYC is open to all women, Kovacks said, and many of the current members had never even picked up a drum stick before signing up.

“We teach through verbal repetition,” said Kovacs. “So many women tell me they do not have rhythm, and I tell them they do not need it.”

The birthday bash, dubbed “The Carnival Project,” will include musical performances from Batala, of course, as well as psychedelic Brazilian ’70s rock group As Lolas, Brazilian percussion project Grooversity, and a disc jockey. The party will also feature some circus elements, with sword-swallower the Lady Aye imbibing some blades, and hula hoop expert Miss Saturn twirling all her parts.
“We are not sure if the sword swallower is going to perform while we are playing,” said Kovacs. “The drums vibrate a lot, and it might not be safe.”

The Carnival Project at Littlefield [622 Degraw St. between Fourth and Third Avenues, in Gowanus, (718) 855–3388, www.littlefieldnyc.com]. May 16 at 8 pm. $10–$12.

Reach reporter Danielle Furfaro at dfurfaro@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her at twitter.com/DanielleFurfaro.