Scott Kettner Clinic: Northeastern Brazilian Rhythms for Drum Set

July 11, 2011 3:35 pm in Drumset, World by Web Team

This clinic, presented at PASIC 2010, explores three rhythms from the northeast of Brazil: Baião, Maracatu and Coco. We will begin by exploring these rhythms and instruments in their traditional context.

Using four-way coordination and groove technique, we will apply these polyrhythmic voices melodically around the drumkit and discuss concepts for applying these rhythms in a jazz, funk, or rock context. We will also discuss the parallels these rhythms share with New Orleans 2nd Line and Mardis Gras Indian grooves as well as concepts for improvising around the drumset using the Maracatu and Baião ostinato pattern as a foundation. Techniques and soloing methods for playing these rhythms with the pandeiro and drumset together will also be discussed.

There’s more to Brazil than samba!

For years, most Americans have associated Brazil with samba, overlooking the numerous regional rhythms and music styles which are tremendously popular throughout Brazil. A perfect example is Maracatu- a dynamic rhythm from the Northeast, propulsive and dramatic, steeped in African traditions with heavy religious overtones. In the last ten years, the biggest musical success story out of Brazil has been the explosion of music from the economically impoverished, culturally rich Northeast. World-famous musicians like Chico Science and the Mangue beat movement that sprung up around him used Maracatu as a springboard for contemporary fusions in the same way that Jorge Ben Jor and other MPB artists used samba a generation earlier.

Maracatu Nação or Maracatu de Baque Virado is a cultural performance that derives from a ritual of the African slaves in Recife (capital city of Pernambuco) approximately 400 years ago when they crowned their own king inspired by the Portuguese colonizers. To this day the crowning part of the ceremony still exists and a parade of Maracatu de Baque Virado still symbolizes the royal court accompanied by a percussion group representing slaves.

Origins of Maracatu

The origins of Maracatu can be traced back to the Reis do Congo (Kings of Congo) procession. The institution of the Kings of Congo (or Reis Negros i.e. Black Kings) existed in colonial Brazil from the second half of the 17th century until the abolition of slavery, in 1888. The King of Congo was a black African (slave or freeman) who acted as an intermediary between the government (Portuguese or, after independence, Brazilian) and the African slaves. He was expected to control and keep peace among his “pupils.” From this institution, which existed throughout Brazil, different folk manifestations evolved in several regions of the country. It was in Pernambuco that the culture and music of Maracatu de Baque Virado evolved, and to this day still plays an important role in the community.


Watch Scott’s Clinic from PASIC 2010!


Including a demonstration of the original instruments and rhythms from Baque de Marcação (Maracatu Ensemble), including Caixa/Snare Drum, Agogô, Gonguê, Abê/Shekere) & Alfaia/Bass Drum) and a demonstration of the rhythms orchestrated on the drumset.



Scott dispels common misconceptions on the Baião rhythm & discusses details of Forró, as well as its application to the drumset.



Starting with a question/answer session, Scott discusses how to apply Brazilian rhythms to real world situations, pandeiro applications and the clinic ends with an UNBELIEVEABLE solo utilizing the pandeiro, triangle and ago-go bells!


Click HERE to download
the Clinic Handout!

This sampler booklet is a collection of material that I have compiled over the past 10 years into two full books. My goal with this booklet is to present an accessible and pragmatic approach to learning and understanding the instruments and basic rhythms of Maracatu de Baque Virado, Forró and Baião.

Itʼs important for me to point out that this is just a brief overview of two full length in-depth books. I think that itʼs impossible to write a single book that completely embodies a rhythm and culture as rich as Maracatu, Forró and Baião however I have tried to present the foundation in this sampler booklet to help you develop a vocabulary that will enhance your understanding of these rhythms and hopefully will inspire you to research and dig deeper on your own.

In the following pages Iʼll share some of the rhythms and beats (baques) that Iʼve learned from my mentors and teachers in Recife, Brazil. Iʼll also share with you my own interpretations and variations that have evolved over the years of playing this music.

I hope that the material in this booklet will help deepen your understanding of Maracatu, Forró and Baião and will inspire you to further explore and study this music and culture. Remember that this is just a guide to help get you started. Thereʼs no better way to learn a style of music than going to the source and drinking from the fountain. So when the spirit moves you…go to Recife and learn with the masters who live and breathe this music and culture on a daily basis.

Remember to have fun and keep an open mind while studying this material.


When Scott Kettner looks at a map, he sees a direct line that connects the rivers of northeastern Brazil to the parishes of New Orleans and the streets of Brooklyn. A master percussionist, bandleader, producer and songwriter, Kettner is the guiding force behind Nation Beat, a band whose teeming, vibrant rhythms find common ground in the primal maracatu rhythms of Brazil!s northeastern region, the Big Easy!s funky, hypnotic second-line and strolling Mardi Gras Indians, and the unfettered freedom of big-city downtown jazz.

No less an icon than Willie Nelson, who invited Nation Beat to perform at his 2008 Farm Aid concert, proclaimed, “ After I heard their CD I became a fan and I was overwhelmed by their music.” Equally enthusiastic was writer David R. Adler of Philadelphia Online, who described Nation Beat as “ a pan-hemispheric, post- colonial party; a rootsy rhythm riot, conceived in bright colors and infectious melodies.”