I’m Pietro, I’m from Brazil, and I love playing music. How else could I start a story about the Latin Music community in Gisborne? We play music, Si! Latin music, Si! And of course: we love it!
Most of us – my Latin Muso friends and I – have been playing music or been in close contact with instruments from a young age. For different reasons we ended up in this small, amazing town, far away from home. We are all very happy to live in Gisborne, but there is one thing that we miss from back home: making live music. So, we have no alternative except to pick up our instruments and build a band. Or 3 bands!
As I am writing this story, administering my daily caffeine intake at the Raglan Roast cafe, I look up to find a poster on the window with the headline: “Live Latin Music - November 18 @ the Dome”. With a big smile on my face I think of all the behind-the-scenes moments in preparation for this event and I know it will be a great night.
Whether we hold one of these nights at one of Gisborne’s great live music venues, the Dome Cinema & Bar or at Smash Palace Bar, or in someone’s backyard, every Latin music night we organise is an opportunity for us – the Latin Musos in Gizzy – to showcase our culture and to take our people back home for a moment.
It’s an opportunity to prove that all those things you heard about South American party nights are real: the music will lift you up from any kind of mood and make you dance as if there is no tomorrow.
Being part of this musical environment and lifting people’s spirits by manifesting our culture is a privilege that I feel honoured to have in my life. But it’s not a purely selfless act that I make music. When I see the crowd really feeling the music, appreciating it, loving it and dancing to it… ooh, that is IT! It is pure medicine for me. It makes the band feel proud and fulfilled. It is the harvest of all the hard work we put in during the weeks and months prior to the event. Oh yes: hard work. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to prepare the show.
So let’s go deep into a rehearsal: it is 6:15pm on a Monday and I am running late. Guitar in one hand, water bottle in the other, I walk down the driveway towards the studio (someone’s living room). While I feel bad that I’m running late, if I’m honest, I secretly enjoy that moment. (My bandmates are surely reading this so let me explain.) I enjoy that moment because this is what I get to experience: It’s a quiet night and I hear the instruments as soon as I step out of my car.
Trumpets, clarinet, saxophone, trombone, guitar, bass, ukulele, bongos, cajon and beautiful voices singing. I close my eyes and take a deep breath and can “see” inside that room and “feel” the vibe inside that room: people who I love playing songs that I love. And I am about to join them! So, just like a 3 year-old walks towards a lollipop, I follow the music and walk towards that room, leaving everything else behind. It is music time.
I get in there and we say hello. We hug, we laugh, we make tea or, if we are lucky, hot chocolate. As we set up our instruments, we catch up about what is going on in our lives: someone is changing jobs, someone bought a double bass, someone is going on a trip to Mexico next week, someone is taking an audition for a show, someone’s dog almost ate someone’s cat, and finally someone says: “Should we play ‘Vamos’?”
“One, two, three, four!” Someone counts us in and we start jamming. Just like that, it’s a moment of beauty and grace. It’s familiar and loving and fun, like a family getting together (but we bring our instruments and play music).
My Sunday lunch at Grandma’s in Brazil is now a jam session on Monday evenings in Okitu.
And just like a proper family gathering, there are a lot of great moments, but there are also some challenging times. Especially when we are getting close to a gig and finalising a new song. Those are the moments that bring us closer together. Like a family, it is about give and take. We lead and follow. Great music is about listening as much as it is about playing. We pay attention to each other’s tone, the timing, the dynamic changes and styles. And like a family, we feel the emotions that others are expressing. The songs we play and write are full of emotions that we express when playing. Doing that connects us on a very deep level. And that’s what us Latin Musos in Gizzy are doing. Making a family for ourselves far away from our Latin homes.
The three bands playing on Saturday put in a lot of effort to make each song sound as good as possible. Because what we’re doing is important. We’re creating live Latin Music where it wouldn’t otherwise exist. And by doing this, a big group of people, coming from different countries and cultures (Brazil, Chile, USA, Mexico, Philippines, South Africa, New Zealand and many more), have created a Live Latin Music community that makes us Family.
So I invite you to come over and join us for this event on Saturday night where we will be celebrating our culture: getting together with people we love, and playing the music that we love!
Our Family is having a party! Don’t forget your dancing shoes!
On November 18, 2023 at the Dome, three acts will create music from different parts of Latin America. “Batu-cada Tairawhiti” will open the night with chilled drum beats, starting with a shamanic vibe building up to a more energetic sound. The band plays a variety of Afro-Brazilian hand drums and other percussion instruments.
Second on the line-up, “Lars and the Clandestinos” will carry on with the show. “L&C” has an interesting set up where each one of their 8 members plays a variety of instruments. After they finish each song, you will see them rushing around and swapping instruments. It feels like if any sort of a sound-producing device were to fall from the sky and land on the stage, someone from the band would pick it up and start jamming with it. “L&C” plays a range of world music and for this event they will be focusing on up-tempo Latin pieces from Mexico and my home country, Brazil.
To close up the night “Sonora Latina” will set the place on fire with a one-hour set of intense, upbeat Chilean Cumbia. Cumbia is high energy music that makes it impossible not to dance.
The dance floor will get so hot you might feel like ringing the fire brigade, and if you do, please tell them to bring their dancing shoes.
Story by Pietro Behar