Shelley Smith

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Where were you born/where are you from?  Iowa City, Iowa

How did you see fogo first?/find out about joining?  My friend Anne Pollack ‘Liked’ a Fogo Azul post on Facebook and it showed up on my feed! As Anne is a professional musician and human being of great compassion and integrity I assumed Fogo Azul was worth my attention. Thank you Anne; thank you, Universe!


Shelley Smith

Image

Where were you born/where are you from?  Iowa City, Iowa

How did you see fogo first?/find out about joining?  My friend Anne Pollack ‘Liked’ a Fogo Azul post on Facebook and it showed up on my feed! As Anne is a professional musician and human being of great compassion and integrity I assumed Fogo Azul was worth my attention. Thank you Anne; thank you, Universe!

Why did you join? For years it has been my fantasy to play the cello and the conga. For one reason or another I have not yet realized either. Toward the end of 2016 I felt a particular desire and perhaps need to express myself through a musical instrument. Also, after the presidential election I felt compelled to join take some kind of civic organization engaged in saving the Democracy and civil society. Several weeks after the swearing in Fogo’s post appeared on my feed and it described the drum line as a musical vehicle for protest and feminist, civic action. That appealed to me. Also, as I had recently returned to the NYC Metro Area after being away for half a dozen years, and was in the process of trying to regroup and get back on track—both major challenges—I was on the look-out for an activity that would give some structure to my life, allow me to engage with new people while not demanding of me more than I could give. As I recall, the Facebook post announced an open rehearsal and the only requirements for participating were being alive, physically able to play possibly heavy drums, and identify as female. I determined that I could meet those requirements! In addition to believing I could meet the physical and identity requirements, it was Stacy’s powerful energy—her warmth and non-judgmental openness and love and belief in Brazilian samba-reggae—as well as my sense of a collective energetic embrace by band members who felt as compassionate and focused on mastering (mistressing?) Brazilian samba-reggae as Stacy that in effect, drew me, like some magical centrifugal force to keep returning to the supportive and liberating sisterhood of Fogo Azul and the rehearsals and gigs. Also, I was so very pleasantly surprised to discover the magical healing power that playing the drum had on any physical aches or mood funks I might be experiencing. Something about the energy of the group, the playing the drum and being enveloped in the vibration creating by the drums vanquishes all disturbance and discomfort!

Which drum do you play and why? I was instantly attracted to the dobra. But at that open rehearsal, it was clear that I did not have the skill to manage to maintain the rhythm of choreography, playing the off-beat patterns watch Stacy and have any idea what her hand signals meant—all at the same time! At the end of the session Stacy surprised me when she asked me if I wanted to join. That caught me off guard, as I make decisions slowly and thought I’d give some thought to the situation. But, Stacy was so positive and upbeat I heard myself say yes. She then asked what drum I’d like to play and I said I liked the dobra… Ever the diplomat, Madam Fire Chief said, “Okay, that’s fine, but, you seemed to play the surdo naturally!” I accepted what she was implying, and I’m glad I did. The surdo plays the hearthbeat. It is a simple rhythm but the frequency of musical vibration it makes is powerful, like a walking bass, it is the foundation upon which all the other drum patterns area layered. By mid summer Stacy said I could try out the dobra should a dobra be available during a rehearsal. It turned out that such an opportunity would be rare. But several months later while riffing in an impromptu gathering at NYC’s Brazil Day celebration, I found myself next to a lovely, very kind surdo/dobra drummer from Washington, DC, who was playing a rhythm that I found irresistible. Since I was in the back and anonymous, I felt, and only few members of Fogo Azul were around to join, AND as Stacy was playing in front of me, I thought I’d take a chance and try to play the dobra pattern on my surdo. The dobra player next to me was so patient and encouraging. Communicating with only his eyes and, from time to time, a discrete nod he guided me as we played, in playing the pattern correctly. It took a number of repetitions for me to get it, but, eventually I did and I was thrilled! Several weeks later I happened to mention that moment to Stacy, and to my complete surprise she said, “Oh yeah, I heard you. You played it perfectly! So, do you want to play dobra?” What an honor, and a challenge! I’m am now a member of a strong section of fast learning dobra players who hold the bar high. Earning my keep is causing me to strengthen my focus skills and self-discipline, and that’s good thing!

Favorite fogo song and why? Samba-Reggae/Baiao. I Baiao’s funk rhythm.

Best Fogo Moment/event? Target First Saturdays: Beyond the Blues at the Brooklyn Museum. Most incredibly energetic and appreciative audience I’ve ever experienced! The most love and joy: Catalina’s wedding.

Any advice for anyone interested in joining? If you end up playing the surdo you may want to use a luggage cart for transporting the drum if your commute includes taking public transportation and/or walking more than a block! Carrying a naked drum can attract attention; be prepared or, carry the drum in a case.

Do you have any pets? kids? plants? 

I have an aloe vera plant that was given to me, although it was originally meant for someone else. It was very wonky! It grew like an aberrant corn stalk! The trunk would bend like an elbow joint every inch or two with the leaves branching out from the trunk. Very bizarre and I had to tie it to a knitting needle with a series of ribbons to keep the dang thing upright. Eventually I found it so visually distressing that I made some surgical cuts. I got rid of most of the trunk, rooted a couple of surviving leaves, replanted the thing, and now have pretty healthy, normal looking nine-leaf succulant.

What do you do for work? For fun?  I would like to teach reading or language arts/communication arts to small groups of children or adults. I enjoy connecting people in ways that help them achieve a goal. If and when I can, I enjoy encouraging typically marginalized youth to believe in themselves and follow their heart.
I love to walk, especially the streets of NYC. I love knitting, and I love children’s literature.

Why did you join? For years it has been my fantasy to play the cello and the conga. For one reason or another I have not yet realized either. Toward the end of 2016 I felt a particular desire and perhaps need to express myself through a musical instrument. Also, after the presidential election I felt compelled to join take some kind of civic organization engaged in saving the Democracy and civil society. Several weeks after the swearing in Fogo’s post appeared on my feed and it described the drum line as a musical vehicle for protest and feminist, civic action. That appealed to me. Also, as I had recently returned to the NYC Metro Area after being away for half a dozen years, and was in the process of trying to regroup and get back on track—both major challenges—I was on the look-out for an activity that would give some structure to my life, allow me to engage with new people while not demanding of me more than I could give. As I recall, the Facebook post announced an open rehearsal and the only requirements for participating were being alive, physically able to play possibly heavy drums, and identify as female. I determined that I could meet those requirements! In addition to believing I could meet the physical and identity requirements, it was Stacy’s powerful energy—her warmth and non-judgmental openness and love and belief in Brazilian samba-reggae—as well as my sense of a collective energetic embrace by band members who felt as compassionate and focused on mastering (mistressing?) Brazilian samba-reggae as Stacy that in effect, drew me, like some magical centrifugal force to keep returning to the supportive and liberating sisterhood of Fogo Azul and the rehearsals and gigs. Also, I was so very pleasantly surprised to discover the magical healing power that playing the drum had on any physical aches or mood funks I might be experiencing. Something about the energy of the group, the playing the drum and being enveloped in the vibration creating by the drums vanquishes all disturbance and discomfort!

Which drum do you play and why? I was instantly attracted to the dobra. But at that open rehearsal, it was clear that I did not have the skill to manage to maintain the rhythm of choreography, playing the off-beat patterns watch Stacy and have any idea what her hand signals meant—all at the same time! At the end of the session Stacy surprised me when she asked me if I wanted to join. That caught me off guard, as I make decisions slowly and thought I’d give some thought to the situation. But, Stacy was so positive and upbeat I heard myself say yes. She then asked what drum I’d like to play and I said I liked the dobra… Ever the diplomat, Madam Fire Chief said, “Okay, that’s fine, but, you seemed to play the surdo naturally!” I accepted what she was implying, and I’m glad I did. The surdo plays the hearthbeat. It is a simple rhythm but the frequency of musical vibration it makes is powerful, like a walking bass, it is the foundation upon which all the other drum patterns area layered. By mid summer Stacy said I could try out the dobra should a dobra be available during a rehearsal. It turned out that such an opportunity would be rare. But several months later while riffing in an impromptu gathering at NYC’s Brazil Day celebration, I found myself next to a lovely, very kind surdo/dobra drummer from Washington, DC, who was playing a rhythm that I found irresistible. Since I was in the back and anonymous, I felt, and only few members of Fogo Azul were around to join, AND as Stacy was playing in front of me, I thought I’d take a chance and try to play the dobra pattern on my surdo. The dobra player next to me was so patient and encouraging. Communicating with only his eyes and, from time to time, a discrete nod he guided me as we played, in playing the pattern correctly. It took a number of repetitions for me to get it, but, eventually I did and I was thrilled! Several weeks later I happened to mention that moment to Stacy, and to my complete surprise she said, “Oh yeah, I heard you. You played it perfectly! So, do you want to play dobra?” What an honor, and a challenge! I’m am now a member of a strong section of fast learning dobra players who hold the bar high. Earning my keep is causing me to strengthen my focus skills and self-discipline, and that’s good thing!

Favorite fogo song and why? Samba-Reggae/Baiao. I Baiao’s funk rhythm.

Best Fogo Moment/event? Target First Saturdays: Beyond the Blues at the Brooklyn Museum. Most incredibly energetic and appreciative audience I’ve ever experienced! The most love and joy: Catalina’s wedding.

Any advice for anyone interested in joining? If you end up playing the surdo you may want to use a luggage cart for transporting the drum if your commute includes taking public transportation and/or walking more than a block! Carrying a naked drum can attract attention; be prepared or, carry the drum in a case.

Do you have any pets? kids? plants? 

I have an aloe vera plant that was given to me, although it was originally meant for someone else. It was very wonky! It grew like an aberrant corn stalk! The trunk would bend like an elbow joint every inch or two with the leaves branching out from the trunk. Very bizarre and I had to tie it to a knitting needle with a series of ribbons to keep the dang thing upright. Eventually I found it so visually distressing that I made some surgical cuts. I got rid of most of the trunk, rooted a couple of surviving leaves, replanted the thing, and now have pretty healthy, normal looking nine-leaf succulant.

What do you do for work? For fun?  I would like to teach reading or language arts/communication arts to small groups of children or adults. I enjoy connecting people in ways that help them achieve a goal. If and when I can, I enjoy encouraging typically marginalized youth to believe in themselves and follow their heart.
I love to walk, especially the streets of NYC. I love knitting, and I love children’s literature.