Favorite Brazilian Drummers

It’s no secret that Brazil boasts a plethora of amazing drummers and percussionists. There are far too many to mention, and too many to even be aware of, but I’ve been fortunate to have seen a number of them in my time, including Airto Moreira, Teo Lima, Duduka da Fonseca, Paulo Braga, Robertinho Silva, Marcos Suzano, Carlinhos Brown, and Tutty Moreno. These virtuosos embody everything I love about great drummer/percussionists: groove, swing and accompaniment.

All these players bring their individual styles and strength to the music they contribute to. The pandeiro prowess of Marcos Suzano is a sight to behold; the jazz stylings of Tutty Moreno and Duduka da Fonseca are beyond beautiful; the power and compositional qualities of Carlinhos Brown are staggering. But if I had to choose a favorite performance I’ve ever seen from the group listed above, I’d have to list Paulo Braga, performing with Vinicius Cantuaria early in the 21st century.

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Paulo Braga | Photo by Emmanuel Pinheiro

I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a percussionist do so much with so little. Paulo Braga, as you probably know, was the pulse behind many of the seminal recordings of Antonio Carlos Jobim and Elis Regina back in the ’70′s. He has played with a veritable who’s who of top Brazilian artists, including Milton Nascimento, Eliane Elias, Oscar Castro-Neves, et.al. He is the consummate bossa nova & samba drummer. He wrote the book on it. And a full 30 years later, he can still drive an entire ensemble with a simple tamborim, or send a song into the stratosphere with his tremendous kit playing. Not with excessive flash or excessive noise, but with perfectly placed, perfectly nuanced notes that only someone who is beyond technique could play. Samba is so deep inside him that he needn’t think about it, only let it out. A true master who says more in the spaces he leaves than most others do in their notes.

Thank you, Paulo Braga, for your amazing artistry and inspiration.

- Joel