Nation Beat

Region: Brazil

At the heart of Nation Beat, a 6-piece group from Brooklyn, lies a totally original 21st century fusion between thunderous Brazilian maracatu drumming and New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues.

Nation Beat Podcast

Which nation, and which beat? What makes this group special is that it offers no simple answers. They are rhythm gatherers, harvesting the fruit of 500 years of cultural crossbreeding, which is why the sounds of the northeast of Brazil and the southern United States blend together so seamlessly; NPR’s All Things Considered music writer Banning Eyre calls them “the most original and alluring fusion group I have heard in years.”

At the heart of Nation Beat’s Legends of the Preacher lies a totally original 21st century fusion between thunderous Brazilian maracatu drumming and New Orleans second line rhythms, Appalachian-inspired bluegrass music, funk, rock, and country-blues. Conjuring the spirit of powerful and liberated carnival queens, rising Brazilian star Liliana Araujo fronts the ensemble with her soaring powerhouse vocals. A recent finalist on Brazil’s “American Idol” spin-off program FAMA, Araujo evokes the righteous soul singers of America’s golden age of soul.

Legends of the Preacher also features three mesmerizing collaborations with 2007 GRAMMY award winners The Klezmatics. The work with The Klezmatics further extends their work as world groove excavators and mad scientists. As if blending the roots music of Brazil and America seamlessly were not accomplishment enough, with The Klezmatics they have added a third layer — Eastern European roots. Recife has been established as the very first landing point of European Jews in the Western hemisphere. Nation Beat founder and bandleader Scott Kettner and Klezmatics cofounder Frank London have spent years exploring possible musical connections between northern Brazil and the Jewish community that planted roots their nearly 400 years ago. The two groups connect sonically and spiritually to provide elegance, whimsy, charm, and soul to these groundbreaking fusions.

When Kettner first started to study Afro-Brazilian rhythms with soul/jazz drummer Billy Hart, Hart couldn’t stop talking about maracatu. Kettner asked what maracatu was and recalls Hart shouting, “I don’t know, I just know it’s a bad-ass rhythm and you gotta go learn it!” Kettner wound up in Recife, in the northeast of Brazil, were he met his mentor, Jorge Martins, founder of Corpos Percussivos, a school of music and culture for underprivileged youths in Recife, Brazil. He lived with Martins, accompanying him to classes, not just at his school, but in the slums, where the master percussionist taught street children. It was in these economically destitute but culturally rich favelas (slums) where Kettner began to notice the curious similarity between Brazilian music and the music he grew up with in the American South. The inspiration for Nation Beat was born.

Kettner describes maracatu as “a really high-energy, percussive, Afro-Brazilian dance rhythm that gets all up in your bones and makes you shake. Imagine the sound of thunder when you see a big storm coming across the ocean — that’s what it sounds like when a maracatu group is parading toward you in Brazil.” Nation Beat brings the audacious energy of this musical storm to both their recorded work and especially their electric live performances. As a result, their explosive live show has attracted music fans from a wide demographic: bluegrass and country music fans, Brazilian music lovers, outdoor festival-goers, and pretty much anyone who loves to dance.

The abiding cultural connection initiated by Kettner and Martins caught the attention of New York City-based independent record label, MODIBA. Following in the path of their humanitarian relief efforts in Darfur, work with Malian star Vieux Farka Toure and overall commitment to the social and economic empowerment of select international communities, 10% of the proceeds from Legends of the Preacher will benefit Corpos Percussivos.

“…Nation Beat specializes in Brazilian [maracatu] and New Orleans second-line funk… …the obvious affection for their sources and sheer moxie they bring make Nation Beat’s sound near addictive.” 
-Time Out Chicago

• Maracatuniversal, 2006
• Legends of the Preacher, 2008


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