In January 2019 I was chatting to a good Brazilian friend of mine, Cesar Freitas Martins who lives and works in Barueri, São Paulo. Over the years we have collaborated musically and he is an incredibly talented composer, singer and multi-instrumentalist.
By chance he mentioned that he was working on a project for São Paulo’s Department for Disabled People’s Rights, forming a percussion and singing ensemble. We decided it was the perfect opportunity to collaborate.
Over the last 5 years I have worked at Ashton Park secondary school here in Bristol with Amy Jenkins’ group of students.
They are a bright, eclectic and talented group with a host of talents and quirky interests. One thing they all have in common is that their passion for all things musical.
Between our two groups, we began to produce and share some ideas. Over Spring and Summer this year, we communicated via email, video messages and Skype.
In parallel, both groups rehearsed a classic piece of Brazilian samba called Maracangalha written in 1957 by Dorival Caymmi. We sent rehearsal clips, voice messages and finally performed the piece together online and demonstrated some of the assistive technology used during the creative process.
Ashton students sampled the Brazilian rhythms from the messages sent and triggered them using MIDI controllers, overdubbing live tuba, Portuguese words they had learnt and performances using accessible instruments such as the Tone Ruler, iPad and Skoog.
The respective strengths of each group combined so that technology and innate swing joined forces to create an energetic and joyous reinterpretation of Caymmi’s classic.
This was a meaningful project that bridged the language barrier and nearly 6000 miles of land and sea. Finally, the video was performed to the friends and family of both groups who were thrilled to see what the young musicians had achieved.
Oriented by their much loved class teacher Amy Jenkin, the students were strongly supported on their journey and encouraged to open their horizons, leaving them with confidence and maturity as they left school and moved on to their next chapter.
And now some thanks…
To our Bristolian group: Fred Watkin, Caitling Macmillan, Ellie Moxham, Kelsey Smith and Oliver Cook
To our friends in Brazil: Cesar and his group
To Ashton Park: Amy, Martine, and our Teaching Assistant Kane for the support and encouragement
Thanks also to Gary Thomas for the film and Drake Music for their ongoing support and investment in this type of initiative.
May there be many more transatlantic projects that break disabling barriers and geographical distances.