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Brazilian music, Cuban accent:

the work of Pedro Bandera

Rafael Bahia

Alexandre Inserra, Getty Images, Publicity / Illustration: Helton Gomes

Through music, Pedro Bandera shortens the distance between Cuba and the rest of Latin America

 

On a dimly lit stage in São Paulo, Pedro Bandera plays his bata drum (a traditional Afro-Cuban instrument), creating the cadence of jazz with a Latin swing. Touching shoulders, the audience starts dancing to the sound of rattles played by his band, Batanga & Cia.

 

The event of the night has name and history: the party O Afrokubano is held regularly at Jazz nos Fundos (a combination bar and music venue in São Paulo), bringing together musicians from different countries for Latin jazz jam sessions. With the microphone in hand, between songs, the lead singer asks, “Is there anyone from Colombia here?” Yes. “What about Brazil? Cuba?” Yes. And yes again.

 

The exchange of sounds and accents is in Bandera’s DNA. His story in Brazil started 13 years ago, when he went to the country to study the relationship between African percussion in Cuba and the Recôncavo Baiano. In 2008, he helped to bring Sepultura, a Brazilian heavy metal band, to his home country – it was the first initiative of what would later become Havana 6463, an organization that aims to connect the Latin American cultures. The number represents the approximate distance, in kilometers, between the Cuban capital and the city of São Paulo.

 

Jazz nos Fundos: Rua Cardeal Arcoverde, 742

 

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“I saw how much Brazil was culturally distant from the rest of Latin America,” he says, explaining that, in addition to promoting parties, the company also offers tours in Cuba, organizes events with artists, and band tours (recently, they brought the rumba group Yoruba Andabo to Brazil).

 

For the Habanero, the country that he has adopted knows little about the region where it’s located. But he’s also seen some changes: in seven years, the audience of O Afrokubano has quadruplicated. “We’ve managed to approximate Cuba and Brazil in a less stereotyped manner.”

 

On the stage, Bandera smiles, proudly: dancing side by side, speaking a combination of Portuguese and Spanish, the crowd takes on a unique – and unmistakable – Latin identity.

 

dancing side by side, the crowd takes on a unique – and unmistakable – Latin identity