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Mestre Ambrósio

Published August 22nd, 2012

Before the emergence of "mangue" there had been few resources or opportunities for bands or for Pernambuco's traditional music in general. By the musicians' reaching out to the world's pop music while at the same time rediscovering the region's own folk roots, the entire city witnessed an increase in self-esteem and an opening up of new perspectives. The movement showed that it was possible, even in Recife, far from the biggest cultural industries of the country, for bands to record CD's, to produce video clips, and to arrange tours outside the country. Hence the symbol of the movement—a parabolic antenna stuck firmly in the mud of Recife while picking up signals from around the globe.



One of the most impressive ensembles to emerge from this environment, and certainly the one currently riding the crest of this latest Brazilian surge, is Mestre Ambrósio, a band that figures prominently both in the mangue movement and in the forró scenario. Mestre Ambrósio came out of Recife in October 1992 with the concept of bringing Northeastern dances, rhythms, and instruments—especially Pernambucan—up to date. By performing a repertoire of cocos, emboladas, maracatus (1), reisados, cirandas (2), and baiões on instruments indicative of these styles: sanfona, rabeca (a type of rustic violin), triangle, and zabumba as well as electric guitar and bass; Mestre Ambrósio embraced a broad spectrum of musical styles, while retaining a foundation firmly fixed in forró. Where Chico Science's sound was a blend of external influences, which were developed with incremental touches of regional music; Mestre Ambrósio started with these "incremental touches" and evolved with external influences. Their music is tinged with traditional forms though not bound by them.



This is a group of "musicians' musicians" that has continually experimented with new sounds and new ways of expressing traditional forms, a band that has searched for original music that is deeply rooted in their heritage. Mestre Ambrósio's endless reservoir of energy and determination has made them an important influence and stimulus for new groups while their timbric coloring and original harmonic treatments has drawn established artists to go out of their way to hear and to record with them. Ambrósio's singular purpose—playing today's Pernambucan music—has sparked a tremendous increase of interest in traditional rhythms throughout Brazil and catapulted the band into the international spotlight. Among experts, Mestre Ambrósio is considered "the band."



Each member of Mestre Ambrósio has a long list of performing, teaching, and recording credits that spans from traditional street theater and Carnaval to composing and recording sound tracks for feature films. All have played with ensembles of the most diverse genres from jazz to Afro-Brazilian to samba-reggae to rock. A blow by blow (or note for note) rundown of each player's career would be too exhaustive as all have been stalwarts on the scene for years. I have included only abbreviated biographical sketches at the end of this article. Suffice it to say that these musicians are among the elite talent in Brazil. Mestre Ambrósio is: Maurício Alves, percussion; Sérgio Cassiano, percussion and voice; Mazinho Lima, bass, triangle, and voice; "O" Rocha, percussion; Siba, rabeca, electric guitar, folk acoustic guitar, and voice; and Hélder Vasconcelos, fole de oito baixos (3), percussion, and voice

Mestre Ambrósio: SIBA

Picture taken during "Pé no Rock" music festival (Recife, Brazil) http://www.dpnet.com.br/anteriores/1999/07/06/viver8_2.html

Mestre Ambrósio: BACKLIT

Picture taken during "Pé no Rock" music festival (Recife, Brazil)

Mestre Ambrósio: SIBA

Picture taken during "Pé no Rock" music festival (Recife, Brazil)

Mestre Ambrósio: SIBA

Picture taken during "Pé no Rock" music festival (Recife, Brazil)

Mestre Ambrósio: PROCESSION

Picture taken during "Pé no Rock" music festival (Recife, Brazil)

Mestre Ambrósio: SOUND CHECK

Picture taken during "Pé no Rock" music festival (Recife, Brazil)

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