Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia

October 13, 2020

Musicalité, Égalité, Sororité

Listening Post 274. Music is a leading indicator of equality—or at least it offers a taste of what a better world might be like. Jazz, rock & roll, flamenco and cumbia are just a few examples of sounds that integrated cultures, even when hard barriers kept races and classes from mingling. Perhaps no nation is more defined by its blended musical traditions than Brazil, and few artists have stepped into the mix with more imagination and flair than the London-based ensemble Let Drum Beat. Singer-songwriters Alba Cabral, Bea Shantifa, Lizzie Ogle and Tuca Milan are themselves a diverse group (Brazilian, French, Scottish) and their debut album, Lua Cheia (Full Moon) is a soothing, pulsing, bubbling almanac of Brazilian music-dance-performance genres that combine the country’s African, Indigenous and European heritages. With vocal agility backed by familiar strings, horns and keys, plus a cornucopia of drums, shakers, scrapers, claps, rattles and bells, the artists bring forró, maracatu, congado mineiro and bumba-meu-boi to life on a global stage. In addition to the parade of styles and instruments, they stir in polyglot cadences of Portuguese, Tupi-Guarani, French and Miná. Their songs invoke spiritual power and nature in seeking wisdom and in virtually demanding that listeners move their feet. Itacaraí (Sacred Stone, video 1) blazes a mystical path into a dance circle with a perfect balance of magnetic harmony and infectious percussion. The rabeca, a medieval Iberian fiddle, drives Forró dos Elementos (Elemental Forró, video 2) and Ebé Ubú (Womb Earth, video 3). Miawezon (Welcome, video 4), describes a joyous West African homecoming. In the title track, rhythmic voices and body percussion accompany a rising moon, its light dancing on the sea (video 5). The women of Let Drum Beat find sisterhood in composing individual musical impulses into a collective sound, and Lua Cheia is an invitation to visit their enchanting universe. (LDB Records)

Let Drum Beat: Lua Cheia / Full Moon
Alba Cabral: Vocals, ukulele, kalimba, congas, pandeiro, alfaia, gonguê, ganzá, reco-reco, tamanco, berimbau
Bea Shantifa: Vocals, matraca, gonkpevi bell, triangle
Lizzie Ogle: Vocals, rabeca, Rhodes piano, congas, alfaia, agogo, caxixi, caixa do divino
Tuca Milan: Vocals, drum kit, agogo, caxixi, xequere, caixa do divino, floor tom, congas, ganzá, matraca, seeds

Aluá Nascimento: Tambor-onça
Dinho Nascimento: Berimbaus
Gabriel Nascimento: Pandeirão
Kika: Vocals
Laura Impallomeni: Trombone
Lelê Milan: Bass
Lenis Rino: Ganzá
Marcelo Dworecki: Bass, guitar
Max Grunhard: Saxophone
Marta Riccardi: Bass
Ne Lucato: Pandeirão, maracã
Scott Baylis: Trumpet
Zé Nigro: Bass


Itacaraí / Sacred Stone
Tuca Milan

Tupi-Guarani is the most widely distributed family of Indigenous languages in South America, once extending from coastal and interior Brazil into modern-day Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia. Though Old Tupi is extinct it gave many loan words to Brazilian Portuguese; Guarani is still widely spoken in Paraguay (where it is an official language) and neighboring areas of Brazil and Argentina. The artists take care in pointing out that they “use Tupi-Guarani vocabulary” as opposed to “singing in Tupi-Guarani.” Five of the eleven tracks on Lua Cheia have Tupi-Guarani lyrics—single words that do not follow a grammatic structure but do provide a narrative of images.

(From the Tupi-Guarani lyrics)
Sacred stone
Stone of sound
Right path, good road
Horsewoman, warrior woman
Battle, war

Ally, friend
Sensitive, live happily
Knowledgeable of the path

Indigenous dance
Circle, turn


Forró of the Elements / Elemental Forró
Lizzie Ogle

(From the Portuguese lyrics)
It comes from earth, from fire, from water, from air
It has been riding the waves of the sea
Nananá, iê, iê, iê

It comes from a leaf, a flower, roots, ground
Every seed that grows and becomes a song
Nananá, iê, iê, iê

I want to speak to the moon
I want to fall into the cascading waters


Ebé Ubú / Womb, Earth
Tuca Milan

(From the Tupi-Guarani lyrics)
Inhabitant, forest
Much faith in someone
Belief, trust
Great saint, God

Shooting star


Miawezon / Welcome
Bea Shantifa

Miná is spoken in Benin and Togo

(From the French and Miná lyrics)
The voyage is not long
Aaah! Welcome!
I can glimpse those smiles
We’re gonna have lots of fun!
Oh Dahomey! My breath, my roots
The Elders are there
Yeehee Mum, you have guided me to this point.

Aeeehhh, I am welcome, the time has come! Aeeehhh, Welcome!
Aeeehhh, I pay tribute to you, dear Dahomey Aeeehhh!

All my strength, all my support!
Oh brothers! Mother!
(Oh my god!) My life, all my heart…
Mum, we are one!
These tears of joy flowing, flowing, flowing

Ahaaayeyeho! I’m singing out to Life! Ayeyeho!

Let’s go!
I’m gonna dance!

My friends!
I’m gonna love!

Let’s go!
And share it all!


Lua Cheia / Full Moon
Lizzie Ogle

(From the Portuguese lyrics)
I saw the full moon rise over the sea
When I saw your light I started to sing
Dark sea, yellow moon
Come see the full moon
Come see the dance of light on the sea



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