Mestre Ambrósio reinforce the roots on new album

The band from Recife record their third album, Terceiro Samba, live in the studio, willing to promote instruments like the alfaia or the eight-bass pipe

Silvio Essinger
Terceiro Samba 30'' excerpts is the third album by Mestre Ambrósio, a band from the town of Recife (capital of Pernambuco, easternmost tip of Brazil, in the Northeast) which, regardless of having caught the same train as Chico Science & Nação Zumbi, Mundo Livre S/A and other hallmark names of the mangue beat, is a lot closer to the roots of the folk music of Pernambuco (maracatu, cavalo marinho, maracatu) than the pop-electronic sounds captured by the satellite dishes sticking out of the mud (see mangue beat). Nonetheless, just like Nação (who put out Rádio S.Amb.A 30'' excerpts last year, and Mundo Livre (who debuted in 1994 with Samba Esquema Noise 30'' excerpts ), Mestre incorporates in the name of the album the term that is one of the best known in Brazilian music - but not in a common meaning.

The guys from Recife couldn't escape the samba, which has been the official music from Brazil ever since its first outburst in the 1930s. "But the word [samba] has different meanings in Pernambuco", singer, songwriter, guitarist and fiddler Siba explains. "Samba can also stand for a meeting with music - not necessarily the samba - and dancing", he says. So, Terceiro Samba (or Third Samba) is the third party promoted by Mestre Ambrósio.

The reference is not by accident: according to the guitarist, on Terceiro Samba Mestre Ambrósio have decided to do radical experiments with instruments that are little known around the Southeast, such as the eight-bass pipe, the ilu (a type of drum used in Afro-Brazilian religions), the alfaia (a type of bass drum) and the caixa-prato (snare-cymbal). "They present as many possibilities as any other instrument", he claims. The album was recorded with the band playing live in the studio - the technological resources were used only to increase the sensitiveness of the microphones. "Live is the best way to capture the sound", Siba says.

Proud of the maturity presented by the band in this third release, Siba seems farther away from the rock guitar that he used to play with garage bands. "I realized that I was a lot more interested in the Northeastern viola (type of Brazilian acoustic guitar). Thus, I developed a way of reproducing the viola technique on the electric guitar."

World music festivals in Europe
Settled in São Paulo for four years, now, Mestre Ambrósio have been successfully touring Brazil. The new show opens in São Paulo later in March, then they head for Rio. After that, they shall spend three months abroad, between Europe and North-America. "We are used to playing world music festivals, where the audience is usually special, open-minded and curious about Brazilian stuff that is not very promoted overseas, because samba and bossa nova artists get so much more media", he says. Portugal, Belgium, Germany, England, France, Slovenia and Dutchland are usual touring routes for Mestre Ambrósio.

The international releases, though, are still few and far between - Fuá na Casa de CaBRal was released in Japan, and that's about it. "We couldn't talk Sony into making this investment", the guitarist regrets. "The record stores in other countries are ordering our debut album, the independent Mestre Ambrósio 30'' excerpts (1996) all the time."