Caique Vidal’s voice is robust and unequivocal over driving percussion and horn sections. In harmony with his band Batuque, the sound is rambunctious yet precise. The melodies spiral until you smile, and dancing feels required.
Vidal’s music draws on the energy of his hometown of Salvador in Bahia, Brazil, where social justice and music are intertwined. Vidal and Batuque are relentless on their 2018 EP “T.Y.S.M (Thank You So Much)”. The samba-reggae he performs is grounded in the city’s Black Pride movement.
The origins of samba are humble – Vidal tells how vendors beat out rhythms on wooden crates while the market was closing and women carrying goods on their heads would dance along. "Just the beat by itself provides movements. The lowest drums in the band is a heart pulse and provide you a walking beat," Vidal explains before breaking the rhythm down by beatboxing.
It wasn’t hard for Carnaval drum groups in the 1970s and ‘80s to replicate these pulsating beats and blend them with Carribean reggae. Vidal lets loose a smile, "It's contagious."
Vidal brought that tradition with him to Durham, away from the religious and cultural context of Salvador. At times, it is a struggle to perform samba-reggae with integrity – most of his audience members and many of his bandmates are white. "Every day I meet someone awesome that is very interested in learning Brazilian culture and [being] part of the band."
Vidal describes how so much of his work in Durham involves informing other musicians about the nuances in Brazilian traditions.
"My main goal is to educate people on all the other aspects of a culture that goes from culinary to social life and social struggles ... not what we see on movies."
Vidal leads Oxente Brazilian Drumming, a local samba-reggae drumming group, and oftentimes shows his audiences how to properly dance along to the music. He's careful to note that learning a tradition does not signal ownership. He simultaneous encourages his students’ growth while making it clear they have no claim to a tradition rooted in the black identity.
Vidal sees his music as an important step towards mutual understanding between African Diasporic cultures.
"Afro-Brazilians and African Americans, we have so much in common to not be aware of what the other is going through," he says. "If we all tie hands [together], we will become a stronger community and we'll be able to discuss strategies to make everybody empowered ... against racism inequalities." Making samba-reggae in Durham is a political balancing act, but Vidal walks the path with ease, ensuring his music remains a public celebration.
Caique Vidal and Batuque perform tonight at 8 p.m. at the West End Wine Bar of Durham , tomorrow at 8 p.m. at Camp North End in Charlotte, Aug. 31 at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, and they host their Brazilian Day Festival on Sept. 7th in Durham Central Park.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Vidal as the current leader of Batalá Durham. He is the former leader of that group and current leader of Oxente Brazilian Drumming.