There’s a beach where one sunny afternoon you may witness an offering to an Afro-Brazilian Orixa spirit of the ocean, the next day watch master capoeristas practicing Brazil’s martial art dance form, and still another day join a gathering of thousands of surfers-cum-dancers rocking out to hybrid musical sounds informed by bloco afro (Afro-Brazilian percussion music), samba-reggae, surf-rock, and California funk. No, these are not the shores of Bahia, Brazil. This is Santa Cruz, California, home of the surf-and-skate, capoeira-kicking, scene-busting phenomenon known as SambaDa. This smoldering and soldering band is a magnet of unexpected particles shaved from Brazilian and American sources. This community of people—their local fanbase and their Brazilian ancestors, their people—are honored in the title of SambaDa’s new album Gente! (February 23, 2010).

While SambaDa emerged from a Brazilian dance group, founder Papiba Godinho has not let his status of capoeira master dominate the band’s sound. Since the beginning, when some of his students started jamming on their evenings off, the motley members have always brought in their own styles and ideas. The new album features Dandha da Hora, a powerful singer steeped in the life and lessons of samba culture and the Brazilian black pride movement. When Dandha arrived in Santa Cruz, drawn by love from her home in the hills and shanties of Salvador, Brazil, she brought with her an ethos that charges the band’s music with an energy born of veneration. Every September, Dandha proceeds to the beach to lead the ritual in honor of Yemanja, the Yoruba Orixa of the ocean revered in Candomblé, her native religion. Here, the traditions of West Africa, carried halfway around the world, washed up in Santa Cruz like so much flotsam before finding a new home in the eclectic bricolage of SambaDá. One track on Gente!, “Mare,” contemplates the immensity of the ocean, how the rise and fall of the tides reflect our lives, and ends with an old Yoruba salutation to Yemanja. Yemanja takes the offering, but returns a gift in kind: driftwood from Brazil, still green at the core, takes root once again where the sand meets the hills. Dancing feet in a hundred-strong samba pat down the soil, and the strains of surf rock, alive and well, raise the tree up to be a new-culture organism, all Amazon jungle wood and funky Cali fruits.



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