Oli Freke

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Notting Hill 2009 & Maracatu & Samba Reggae

Maracatu : Sunday 31st August

Having had a bit of a break from the London group Maracatu Estrela do Norte I’ve been looking forward to playing with them at Carnival for a few months now and have been to the rehearsals down in Peckham, etc. (Maracatu is the drumming music from NE Brazil, which I played for several years and even visited Brazil in 2006 to study further)

Here are the drums unloaded from the van, as it’s important to know what a pile of drums looks like. It looks like this:


I haven’t seen my good friend Marcus for about three years since he moved to Luxemburg to translate ‘words’ for the EU. He’s extremely pleased to see me too:


Maracatu is an extraordinary music and culture that has it’s origins in 16th & 17th century Brazil, the time of slavery. During carnival celebrations in those days the slaves were allowed for the duration to dress up as the King and Queen of their group and to represent them in the parades. A whole Louis XVIth style court would be represented, including parasol holder and below, an ambassador as well.


Accompanying the court and their drummers would be a retinue of dancing girls, with choreography reflecting their daily lives of tilling the land, domestic duties, and other activities. Our dancers are led by a beautiful Brazilian lady called Mariana:


Here are the drummers. I’m at the back somewhere out of shot..


Here I am, out of shot at the back again:


We had a great time parading round the Notting Hill streets. We were actually taking part alongside the Jamaican Twist float, which is why we’re wearing slightly incongruous Jamaican flag t-shirts, despite playing the music of Brazil!

There were so many people filming us and taking pictures that if I find any videos online or indeed an actual picture of me to prove I was there, I’ll post ’em!

Update: Footage found!
@ 10 seconds & 5 mins


Monday 1st September – Samba Reggae

Monday is party day at Notting Hill and the sun also came out to party with us, which was great. On Monday we played Samba Reggae – a very different Brazilian style to maracatu, and one that originated in the 70’s in the region of Bahia. As the name suggests it takes it’s influence from the very Brazilian style of samba and the Caribbean/Jamaican sounds of reggae.

It is, in my humble opinion, funkier than funk itself.


It’s difficult to take pictures of us playing when I’m also playing, so these pictures are of us at rest.

This is Sam, the band leader for both groups. He’s looking a bit like we messed up a break in this pic, or he might just be concentrating.


Pants to Poverty!

We had dancing girls on the Monday who were wearing splendid ‘pants to poverty’ pants and .. not much else.




Audience reaction was great, and we frequently had moments were people would come from the crowd to show us their moves – one group were a breakdance troupe who had all the moves. Windmilling on tarmac can’t be very comfortable, but those guys achieved it!


Supermalt were giving away free drinks. A convenient surfacenearby provides a barometer of popularity of the drink:


ie, not especially popular.

Here’s a cool drum and bass DJ in a church doorway.


 A good time was had by all and the atmosphere seemed really good for both days, which was great.

After 5 hours of drumming on both the Sunday and Monday, we were all pretty knackered….


See ya there next year, eh?!