When Aline Morales left her native Brazil to settle in Toronto in 2003, she realized that many Canadians thought Brazilian music was limited to the samba and the bossa nova. Morales, a drummer, percussionist and composer, brought maracatu drumming and dancing, an Afro-Brazilian performance genre, to the city.
“The concept that people had here of Brazilian music, it was kind of a stereotype of just samba and bossa nova. Nobody had ever heard of maracatu, and then I started to teach, and I still do,” Morales said.
A traditional maracatu performance includes a troupe of drummers, a singer, a chorus, dancers and stock characters, along with a king and queen. In Brazil, Morales performed with one of the country’s best-known maracatu groups, Naçao Estrela Brilhante do Recife. “Maracatu is an old tradition in Brazil, an oral tradition, something you can’t learn in school,” Morales said.
Morales’ Toronto-based percussion troupe of up to 35 participants, Baque de Bamba, performed at Panamania Live at Nathan Phillips Square and the Summerworks Block Party this past summer, has led parades through Kensington Market and was featured in an Ontario Tourism “There’s No Place Like This” television commercial.
Morales released a debut solo album, Flores, Tambores e Amores, in 2011. A change of pace from maracatu, the Juno-nominated CD is rooted in samba, forró, northeastern Brazilian folk music and 1960s tropicalia, although the maracatu influence still comes through. “It’s a little more mellow, not so loud as a drumming group can be,” Morales said.
Before she moved to Canada, Morales performed regularly with her sister, Jabu, a singer and songwriter. The two women are now separated by an ocean. Jabu has been living in Barcelona since 2008. She’s established herself as a performing artist there, with her own band, the Maracatu Mandacaru drumming troupe, and with the all-female ensemble Tambor de Saia. Jabu is launching her second CD, Malungo, in Toronto, and Morales will join her on stage at the Lula Lounge at the end of November.
Malungo was recorded in Barcelona with Portuguese and English lyrics. Aline helped Jabu write one of the two English tracks on the album, Heirs, a song about having children. The two women are mothers, and a remarkable coincidence surrounds the birth of their children.
“We got pregnant in the same year,” Aline said, adding that both she and her sister have twins who are now nearly three years old. Also on the theme of motherhood is the track Libran, on which Jabu sings in Portuguese about an African-Brazilian goddess who represents motherhood.
With its African and Brazilian musical influences, Jabu’s CD is a reflection of Barcelona, the multicultural city it was recorded in, Aline said.
“You can tell Jabu is living in a place that is multicultural, a little bit like Toronto.”
Aline and Jabu Morales’ one-night Toronto appearance will include local musicians on drums, keyboards, guitar, bass and a Brazilian guitar called the cabuco, along with lots of percussion. The sisters perform at the Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W., Toronto, on Nov. 26. Doors open at 9 p.m. and show time is 10 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance at umanota.ca or $15 at the door.
LATE CORRECTION: The original headline implied the duo were Jewish, when they aren’t. Also, due to visa problems, Jabu Morales will not be performing. Her sister, Aline, will still be performing as scheduled.