Fogo Azul NYC’s Endless Summer/‘SUM-ALL’ of 2017!

Event Band for your special occasion?

Search no further!  If Labor Day marks the (unofficial) end of summer, and if the rule of thumb that says summer is a marching band’s busiest season, then I guess I’d have say that Fogo Azul is enjoying one heck of an extended summer, now into sum-all (summer/fall transition)! Perhaps the sunny skies, warm temperatures, and a steady demand for our drumming entertainment as an event band at public and private events, indoors and out, made the month of September and first weeks of October feel like an endless summer! (In this case, selfishly, I must admit, I’ll thank Climate Change for extending our season!) 

An Event band grows:


As Fogo Azul continues to grow in number and our invitations come from increasingly diverse sources, we have eagerly embraced the opportunity to diversify our repertoire and increase our presence and recognition in the New York City Metropolitan Area and beyond. We were especially excited to receive invitations from Carlos (Caco) de Oliveria, founder and artistic director of the New York Samba School, and Grooversity founder and artistic and vision director, Marcus Santos to join him in playing for the Brazil Day celebration in Philadelphia. As Rio de Janeiro samba patterns, rhythms and drum playing methods are the dominant style of samba played at Brazil Day celebrations, Fogo Azul members participated in a number of samba workshops to learn about the music and gain proficiency in playing some of its most iconic patterns. During the weeks of preparation leading up to the festivals we had the great honor and opportunity to participate in an intimate workshop led by the legendary Rio de Janeiro samba percussionist, director and teacher Mestra Jonas. Hosted by Philip Galinsky, director of Samba New York! the experience of the incredibly passionate, joyful and patient Mestra’s high energy, expert instruction left us edified and in a stunned state of transcendent amazement!

mambembe new york

On Saturday, September 2nd, under gray skies, donning the national colors of Brazil, yellow and green, on T-shirts designed by yours truly, we gathered on Times Square, among an increasingly growing and excited crowd of expectant spectators. In typical Brazilian time, more than hour after call time (wink!), Caco and his musicians arrived and we took formation. Under Caco’s direction began our march across “Little Brazil”, otherwise known as west 46th Street signaling the beginning of the celebration. Our route ended at the foot of a stage where musicians and dancers continued the celebration with characteristic Brazilian energy and enthusiasm. Having worked up an appetite by then we were very happy to find an abundance of delicious Brazilian Cuisine at Ipanema 

Restaurant. And guess what! We returned the next day, where we played independently in our Fogo Azul blue and cut a swath through the encroaching and excited crowd of spectators and marched to our Samba Reggae along 46th onto the corner at the Avenue of the Americas. There we stayed in formation and rocked our rhythms to an excited crowd. Due to the crowds ahead, we did an about-face and marched back to our step-off spot. Some band members took off to explore the many sidewalk vendor booths while others relaxed and refueled over a fabulous lunch at Ipanema Restaurant. You have NO IDEA how indescribably delicious the  Bitoque (aged New York strip steak in a garlic and beer sauce topped with a fried egg) is!!!! OMG! I can still taste that orgasmic combination of steak, runny egg yolk and beer sauce over scalloped potatoes!!! Not only was the food sumptuous but the trance-like samba of several bands playing just across the street kept us getting up from the table to rush to the the second floor window to see who was playing!

samba reggae first Afro Bloco Ile Aiye in Salvador da Bahia Brazil drums

Eventually, feeling thoroughly sated, we slowly made our way out of the busy restaurant bidding our kind waiter, and host adieu.  We were all prepared to go our separate ways, when we spotted group of drummers from several different schools and decided we had to join them. So on went our belts and drums and off we ran to ‘represent’ and exercise our new Rio samba drumming skills. What great fun! With at least one surdo, dobra, and repinique player, we played until the director signaled us to stop. What wonderful end to two great days of celebrating Brazil Day in New York City’s Little Brazil! 

Brazilian Music A’Plenty!    

And then, the one and only Marcus Santos, embodiment of boundless samba percussion joy and energy, invited Fogo Azul to perform with him at Project Capoeira’s Brazilian Day Philadelphia 2017, at Penn’s Landing, on September 17th! Not only was this event a first for Fogo Azul,  and one in which we debuted our new navy blue pantaloons glittery flame appliqués painstakingly cut and sewn by our own surd 2-player Suso, this was our first road trip, on a chartered bus, with Marcus! WHAT!?  Skies were clear, the sun bright and warm, and the crowd was ready to party! We played two sets in a new formation for us, two very long rows, stretched out in front of the bandshell. A bit of a visual and auditory challenge, but, nonetheless, our samba reggae beats and the infectious energy of Marcus inspired a row of dancers to spontaneously break into traditional Brazil Day NYC Fogo AzulAfro-Brazilian Dance during both sets, kept the audience rocking and lured Dendé formerly of Timbalada, to take center stage and begin call and response singing which heightened the fun factor all around. After the last set was played, and we were sated with complementary Brazilian fare, and for some who could not resist a purchased spirited (and very decorative!) coconut beverage or sherbet, we made our way back to our bus and New York City. The bus ride, as it turned out, was the perfect opportunity for great debriefing and group discussion about the gig. It was a great experience and we look forward to doing it again next year!

Three Weddings and A Dumbo Drop

So, when not marching in parades or cheering on runners, walkers or bikers across a finish line, or entertaining at openings, or a charity gala, as an all around event band, we drum at WEDDINGS! 

And guess what: Fogo Azul loves weddings!

This summer and Fall we’ve had the privilege of celebrating the love of three couples beginning a new life together in and beyond New York City.   As a surprise for his daughter and new son-in-law we hid in the distance on a bucolic residential property just north of New York City, overlooking a river, before getting the signal from the father to suddenly appear from behind the seated wedding guests and drum in celebration of the two young newlyweds. We led the guests and wedding party to the circular driveway in front of their house where we marched and drummed, around and around, to the cheer on the friends and family, and bride and groom in dance, and to launch the young couple on a joyful marriage trajectory. Women Drummers For Weddings NYCThe gracious father/musician included us in the reception repast where we broke bread and toasted the couple with their guests, and danced into the night. 

Back on home turf, early this month on a gloriously sunny afternoon we navigated the narrow sidewalks of the hot and hipster neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn as we processed (trotting at perspiration inducing clip) past surprised pedestrians, diners at sidewalk cafes and surprised motorists as we hustled across intersections along the way from the church to the reception venue.Women Drummers For Weddings NYC  We knew our newlyweds were off to a life of special love and joy when the beautiful bride buckled on a drum belt and hooked up a surdo atop her satiny gown and began to play, but not alone. She and her groom played the same drum together! We think this is an auspicious start to a married life rich in shared joy and spontaneity!  

And perhaps the most special of our Fall weddings was that of one our very own surdo  sister! Again, Mother Nature was generous in shining a bright sun and warm temperatures on a Saturday afternoon, far from the city on the wooded grounds of an intimate summer camp in the quiet hinterland of New Jersey. Our carpooling Fogo drummers seemed to arrive, magically, as our dobra sister Tina noted, one after the other, with the help of GPS, traveling ever narrowing roads morphing from asphalt to gravel, two lanes to one, across a tiny bridge and up a long driveway that cut through a wood and finally opened up to a large flat field dotted with small out buildings of various sizes. As the drum sisters spilled out of cars onto the grassy meadow on the periphery of the camp that served as a parking lot for the wedding guests, they spoke in hushed tones, inhaling that delicious smell of sweet clover and hay, stretching and quietly unloading drums and adjusting belts and kneepads, our brides shared their vows and were joined in matrimony.

wo lookout drummers gave us the heads up to stealthily high step our way to the director and ready ourselves for showtime! Our new bride surdo sister was glowing and beautiful, and thrilled and surprised us when she joined us with her drum and proudly marched with us to the reception. It was especially touching to see our new sister bride dance with her father to our samba reggae beat. Celebrating continued long into the night with delicious and unique fall cocktails, mouthwatering fare prepared and served by a catering staff that was as proud and personable and celebratory as the newlyweds and guests! Salsa and R&B played by [name of the jazz combo] kept us all dancing well into the night. And, a particularly interested guest just might join our ranks! And…, for our sisters who love the outdoors, the celebrating included overnight camping (in tents)!
            Last, but not least, we participated in a unique and delightful fundraising event to benefit two Brooklyn schools, Public School No. 307, and the Dock Street School, both located in the neighborhood known as DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass). The Great DUMBO Drop! On a breezy, sunny late September day, Fogo Azul entertained throngs of school children from the beneficiary schools at huge block party on Brooklyn’s famous Washington St. Hundreds of small plastic elephants attached to tiny parachutes were dropped from rooftops and transfixed and excited children scrambled to catch as many as they could, in a display that, according to one Fogo sister’s description, made Lord of the Flies seem tame! Kudos, to our drummers who maintained focus and our samba reggae beat through the mayhem, and even while being impolitely ‘bonked’ by a few rogue, windblown elephants that became more like mini Dumbo kamikazes than gently floating toy elephants! And never one to miss out on opportunity to score a toy, our big kid director succeeded in catching a couple of the elephants on their descent! The event was a great success! Fun was had by all and a photo our own dobra, Acacia Dupree was featured in a newspaper story about the event!

Fogo Azul feels much gratitude for the opportunities we’ve had to celebrate newlyweds, entertain philanthropists, and cheer on and energize those who race to raise funds for good causes, and we look forward to doing more. And, for the time being, we are tremendously excited about marching in what has become one of New York City’s most exciting parades – my all time favorite, The Village Halloween Parade! Sponsored by NY1 this year marks the 44th anniversary of the parade and the theme is “Cabinet of Curiosities: An Imaginary Menagerie”! We will spend the coming days perfecting our marching formation, repertoire and crafting our costumes! Our October will go out with a fabulous bang, and our November will begin on an equally high note with the honor of playing for the runners in the New York City Marathon!

Until next time: keep marching loudly to the heartbeat of your own drum!!

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