Love the Samba Squad

Samba Squad on CBC [runs 4:44] Source

I'll let you guess whether I have a date tonight or not, but people, people: don't be a slave to Validation Day! If you're looking for a warm place [UPDATED] this Friday night -- solo or not -- go dance your ass off at the Mod Club instead with Samba Squad, arguably Toronto's most prominent samba ensemble, and without question one of the city's most eclectic and longest-standing groups of its kind. Do it for the millions of Brazilians kicking off Carnival this week, the world's biggest street party (now with Fatboy Slim? Ossh!). The average Brazilian, as I understand, has little to no idea about this "Valentine's Day" -- just one day set aside for appreciating and expressing love? -- but samba drums all night? Vamos la -- let's go there.

Led by much-sought after percussionist Rick Lazar (you may remember him from such CBC Radio theme music hits as Metro Morning), the Squad's last appearance at the Mod Club this past September celebrated their recent album release (Batuque, hyped here) as well as a Vision TV documentary (Drums We Love).

Along with the nearly two dozen-strong bateria (drummers), guest singers and dancers will add to the group's constant fusion of worldbeat sounds and images, including local light Eliana Cuevas, while Gord Sheard keys in on piano for the group's salsa numbers and more. (And in case you weren't sure, while both forms often find themselves under the blanket term "Latin music" here in America do Norte, samba drums playing salsa music isn't quite traditional.)

New at this performance: a series of choregraphed pieces performed by sets of male and female dancers to complement the drums courtesy of Matt Strand (disclosure: my former roommate, once upon a two-bedroom spot in Fernwood). Strand, who's studied music and dance in Brazil and plays in Samba Squad and other groups, says his choreographies derive inspiration from several traditional African dances. Kicking off the second set, the dances include: Toyitoyi (once used as a form of solidarity and defiance in apartheid-era South Africa), followed by the rhythm of Sabar (in which the men, or "Swenkas", will shake it in their finest suits) and Domba (a rhythm tha's also a Ghanaian dance performed by women, in this case led by Melissa Noventa). If all these words mean nothing to you, Strand isn't concerned. "We've never really done a choreographed piece [with this band behind us]. When you have 15-20 percussionists playing music from around the world [on Brazilian drums], that's something that is so Toronto!"

Samba Squad,
Friday Feb. 16
10PM (first set)
The Mod Club, 722 College St.
$10 at the door (no presale)
Info: (416) 593-9746
(funky cartoon flyer)

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