The Bateria Director - Mestre de Bateria
Posted on 30 December 2018
Learn through videos, photos, and texts about the Mestre de Bateria of Brazil´s Carnival: In every modern day orchestra, ensemble or larger band, there is a conductor. In Carnaval and samba, we see the same phenomena at the drum section, called “bateria” in Portuguese. In Brazilian Samba-School drum sections, there is always an experimented musician in charge for conducting, maintaining, and providing vigor to the samba beat. This figure is called the “Mestre de Bateria” or “First Director” of a Drums Section. This expert on carnaval drums must obligatorily possess specific skills in samba rhythms. He should definitely know how to play all percussion instruments of the drum section; know how to harmonize sub-sections; have an amazing ear to notice eventual beats/rhythm mistakes; and must able to command the samba-school percussionists through gestures (the whistle and the wand are the most used).
Below, an excellent picture of Alexandre Vidal from Mestre Casagrande from Unidos da Tijuca. He learned his samba drumming techniques with legendary Master Marcal.
Also, the Diretor de Bateria must be charismatic and willful. Some of the most legendary Brazilian Carnaval Drum Section Master also have strong personalities, which helped them not only maintain the power of their samba beat, but make sure ‘his percussionists’ follow him along many years in his samba-school. Let´s learn a bit more of this important figure within the Brazilian Carnaval, who is literally located at the heart of any parade or samba gathering!
Below, one of the bateria masters from Academicos da Rocinha Samba School at the technical rehearsal at the Sambadrome. The photo shows how allignment and harmony is important.
If you have ever seen the Carnaval parade in Rio, you have probably felt the intensity of the drums section. Many consider this segment of the parade, the most enthusiastic and vibrant, naturally. Now imagine that in each major samba school you can have up to 280 percussionists…Almost a full battalion! That´s why several drum masters and one “chief” or general Drum section Director is needed to coordinate this giant orchestra of percussions, which is the “samba-school bateria”. The overall coordination direction of a samba-school drums section is formed by the chief-director and his three main assistants. This number may grow up to 10, since you may have sub-assistants for row of the percussions wing. Drum Section Directors, use different methods to conduct his group.
Below, Mestre Ciça from Grande Rio Samba School, conducting a great practice at Estacio de Sá Samba-School.Please check more than 30 Videos Carnival Rio Brazil in our Video section clicking on the link. Mestre Ciça today is considered one of the best in Brazil, within the TOP 3, certainly.
As an example Mestre André, a renowned Drums Section Director from Mocidade Independente Samba-School in Rio, would not use whistle, just use the wand. He would incredibly command his samba percussionists dancing just ahead and along of the Drums Section, and make conventional signals to them. Most of the Drum Section Directors conduct their bateria facing their percussionists, similar to an orchestra conductor. Still, since samba has many styles, some Directors conduct their “baterias” looking at the same direction of their conducted (as giving his back). (As a note, samba players / percussionists are called "batuqueiros" in Portuguese, in a more informal language.)
In today´s modern Carnaval scenario, the head of the Drum Section has a prestigious position within the samba-school. But, nonetheless to say, this prestige is conquered without sweat and blood: The Drumming at the parade counts as a full criterion for the Carnaval contest in Rio and São Paulo. This means that if anything goes wrong in the tuning, beat or samba harmony of the drums section, the samba-school can be penalized for that criterion. As a consequence, the Drum Section Master will be accounted for and questioned.
Above we see that the Mestre de Bateria figure is passed along generations of samba percussionists: The boy from Renascer do Jacarepagua Samba-School is on his 1st parade as an "assistant director" of a full samba-school in Rio! Photo by Alexandre Vidal / FOTO BR Team.
On the other hand, if his percussion executes everything as planned, and they receive perfect scores, (full 10 scores) , his name will be associated with competence, professionalism and fame. Needless to say that due to Brazilian Carnaval´s recent professionalism, this position is also heavily disputed amongst samba-schools and some drum master are well paid in terms of salaries and bonuses.
Review below some of Director/ Mestre de Bateria´s Responsibilities:
- Care for percussion instruments conservation
- Conduct the School-School Drums Section at parades, events
- Organize and create disciplinary rules
- Tune the instruments, mainly the first, second and third surdos.
- Manage human resources / relationships within the Drum Section
- Liaison with Samba-School directors and upper staff
- Keep close contact to Samba-School composers, singers
We also listed some of the legendary Mestres de Bateria / Drums Section Directors that literally made history in the development and establishment of this fundamental presence in the Brazilian Carnaval evolution:
• Mestre Louro - ( 1945-2009) - Salgueiro Samba-School
• Mestre Valdomiro – Estação Primeira de Mangueira
• Mestre Sula – Portela Samba-School
• Mestre Mug – Vila Isabel Samba-School
• Mestre Marçal – Unidos da Tijuca Samba-School
• Mestre André - Mocidade Independente
• Mestre Bira – Mocidade Independente
• Mestre Aimorecy –Império Serrano