Produced by Oakland-based Crosspulse (www.crosspulse.com), the International Body Music Festival is the first gathering of its kind anywhere, an unprecedented concert program of four distinct Body Music styles from throughout the Americas, including an explosive collaboration between Slammin All-Body Band and Barbatuques.
Body music pioneer and IBMF director Keith Terry’s vision of a global musical shindig goes beyond trading rhythms or belly-slap techniques. It’s about a cross-cultural conversation touching that visceral place that only the world’s oldest instrument can reach. “Both the audiences and the artists are really moved,” says Terry, a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow, the first to earn such an award in body music. “Everyone has basically the same instrument, yet the expression of culture through Body Music is so deep and unique, the experience of seeing them together really strikes people.”
Oakland-based Slammin brings together inspired beatboxing, Terry’s masterful, graceful body music, four soul-stirring vocalists, and three dancers deeply rooted in Jazz, Funk, R&B and World Music grooves. The ferocious ensemble is known for infectious harmonies and lightning-fast improvisations, punctuated by the kinetic soundtrack of the dancers.
Barbatuques has developed their unique “circle orchestra” of twelve musicians who rock out brilliant original compositions and stunning versions of samba and maracatu classics by moving and vocalizing. Although the two ensembles are from radically different cultural perspectives, they find fantastic parallels in the ways that they transpose instrumental music onto their bodies. Their collaboration is result of a three-year conversation between Keith Terry and Fernando Barba, director of Barbatuques and one of Brazil’s body music trailblazers. The two directors met thanks to YouTube. Their new works soulfully blend the funky, warm, urban soundscapes of Oakland and São Paulo, in percussive body music and voice.
In a more traditional tête-à-tête, Celina Kalluk and Lucie Idlout are cousins who sing Inuit vocal games from Canada’s arctic territory of Nunavut. To play, two partners sing into each other’s mouths, only a few inches apart, and interweave breath and voice until one of them gets tripped up. The sound is so deep, simultaneously evoking ancient history and futuristic sonics of electronic music. Terry recalls the first time he heard Inuit throat games live, “Every tune ends in laughter, from either hyperventilation or losing the game. The singers laugh, and then the entire room would break into laughter.” Celina and Lucie are a highlight of the IBMF—artists with a sound not heard often outside the Arctic—and some of the oldest body music on record.
From the African-American tradition comes hambone, perfected on the plantation when drums were prohibited, and later performed in vaudeville, with high-speed slaps to the thighs and chest as its musical palette. Derique McGee, clown and hambone artist, has a youthful fascination that keeps this lightning-fast tradition alive and clapping. He’s taught innumerable kids in the San Francisco Bay Area their history through hambone, and gives an infectious performance.
Beyond the compelling history, musical variety, and physical artistry of body music, “It’s really about being human. It’s a very visceral connection with all these different people. We’re all playing our bodies,” Terry reflects. “I’m excited about all these styles going on around the world, and I’d like more people to see them and enjoy them. It’s a reminder of our humanity on a very basic level.”
The language of body music varies from culture to culture, but the core impulse is rooted in a deep artistic expression through the human body. Moroccans have their own way of clapping, producing pops with fingers spread. Sumatrans slap their bellies just so, in a way unheard elsewhere. In the crevices and curves of human existence, in the resonating chambers of the human body and soul, discoveries are made and brought to aural and visual awareness for celebrants worldwide.
The International Body Music Festival was founded in 2008 by Crosspulse and Artistic Director Keith Terry as a six-day festival in the San Francisco Bay Area with concerts, workshops, open-mic, educational outreach, and jam sessions. The Third IBMF will be November 8-14 in São Paulo, Brazil, produced by Nucleo Barbatuques. The IBMF Concert at Lincoln Center is a New York debut.
Upcoming Editions of the International Body Music Festival
• IBMF2010 – São Paulo, Brazil
• IBMF2011 – San Francisco, CA, US
• IBMF2012 – Istanbul, Turkey