Batalá, the ‘loudest show on Earth’ hitting Philly tonight

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Members of the Afro-Brazilian band Batala perform at the Navy Yard during the Anti-Defamation League's Walk Against Hate Sunday morning. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Members of the Afro-Brazilian band Batala perform at the Navy Yard during the Anti-Defamation League's Walk Against Hate Sunday morning. (Brad Larrison for WHYY)

Batalá Philadelphia, a samba-reggae percussion group known as “the loudest show on Earth” performs at area marches and rallies, including the ACLU’s pop-up event happening today in Philadelphia.

Batalá Philadelphia has Afro-Brazilian roots and is part of the 1,500-drummer international Batalá Mundo arts project.

The group uses five types of drums. The surdo 1 and 2 which are the bass drums are known as the heartbeat of the band. The dobra which plays the up beats. The repinique is the smallest of the drums that plays high-pitched notes, and the caixa is a traditional snare drum. All the drums are worn around the musician’s waist.

Jennifer Nelson of Fishtown wears softball knee pads as she plays the large surdo 1.

“Most of our songs are called with hand gestures. So even though we’re an international group we could go to Rome or Greece where we might not speak their language, but they call it with the hand signals and we’d be able to still play,” Nelson said.

Nelson said she had no previous musical experience before joining the band more than a year ago, and enjoys the community of drummers.

Cindy Lenti, executive director of Batalá Philadelphia, says the group began in 2017. Its members are mostly women, ranging from 30 to 70 years old.

The group’s music originates from the city of Salvador, Brazil. Lenti said it has a social meaning.

“The music was created as a voice against oppression. Salvador happens to be one of the largest slave ports in the world,” Lenti said.

Batalá is scheduled to perform at 6:00 pm as part of the ACLU’s 100th anniversary Pop Up at the 23rd Street Armory.

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