Review: Tropical Beats Party – Pedro Coquenão aka Batida @ Village Underground (London, 19th March 2015)

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Following to the letter the Convergence Festival’s spirit, Batida brought to Village Underground an all-embracing show: a magic box containing music, dance, and images, and a taste of Angolan culture.
If you have ever asked yourself the existential question “what is world music?” then Pedro Coquenão, the mind behind the Batida project, is the answer. Pedro is a Lisbon based musician and producer of Angolan origin. He decided to recover and enhance the flavors of his African roots to make them more appetizing for a Western audience. The resulting stage show at Village Underground during the seventh night of Convergence Festival was one of the most exciting gigs of recent times.

Batida is a pure and heart-felt tribute to the southern African sound calledkuduro, but is also a sincere praise to the music style’s parents, such assemba, soca and zouk. As well as its outstanding dancing drive, tempting fast-paced 4/4 beats, insistent percussion and ubiquitous electro embellishments Batida offers something more that is hard to take away from the live performance: an increased musical awareness. But, believe it or not, that’s indeed one of the remarkable aims of the project: to put Angola on the musical map.

Before each song Pedro Coquenão commited himself to introducing, explaining and expounding on a short story behind it; where the rhythms come from, who inspired them and what the lyrics are about. That’s how the audience learnt that “Pobre e Rico” was inspired by the first Angolan movie produced back in 1970s, and “Bazuka” recalls the tragic events of the Civil War. To change the mood and inflame the crowning moment of the gig, the band gave away dozens of whistles to recreate the Carnival of Luanda atmosphere and celebrate the fun-filled “Alegria”.

In little more than an hour Batida had introduced its fans to Angolan pop culture, its rich underground artistic scenes and the wide range of musical expression that still pulses in the country. In doing so Pedro asked for help from some interesting artists and traveling companions. The vocal expression of the Guinea Bissau born A. F. Diaphra, the sinuous moves of Andre Cabral and the eclectic sound of the Lisboan Catarina Limão effectively supported on the Village Undergound’s stage.

To limit the idea of Batida to a music ensemble would be to underestimate it. The project embraces a broad-spectrum of disciplines from dance to graphics, passing through movies and words in such a way as to interpret the Angolan soul. In this way, Batida’s shows go far beyond music. They rapidly turn into a groovy, shaken cocktail of notes, dances and images, a glorious amalgam of intertwined arts and disciplines.

Inevitably, the sensations and the reactions instilled by their performance are heterogeneous and indiscriminate. But one thing is certain: Batida is one of the few projects around able to enrich you. They allow your legs and feet to move, and your mind to wander.

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