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Acclaimed Street Band Heralds Brazilian Energy And Culture

Street band Monobloco will bring the samba-rock funk rhythms of their native Brazil to the Kelly StrayhornTheater at 8 p.m. Friday. The 24-person crew takes the stage the same night Olympic opening ceremonies kick off in Rio de Janeiro.

Founding member Celso Alvim said their adaptations of classic songs make them famous in their home country, and when they tour, audiences vibe the energy of their set.

“It’s a ball,” Alvim said. “It’s music to dance, to be happy, to sing along.”

Batucada, a sub-style of samba, is percussion-based and influenced by South American and African rhythms similar to Pittsburgh’s Timbeleza, which will share the stage with Monobloco.

“It’s special when we go abroad because we can see how the Brazilian music, the Brazilian batucada, is really popular outside of Brazil,” Alvim said.

Monobloco began as an educational percussion project in 2000 that evolved as “blocos,” or street bands, regained popularity among young people in South America, Alvim said. They're best known for performances during Rio's annual Carnaval do Brasil, which takes place between Ash Wednesday and a preceding Friday afternoon. 

But not all Brazilian traditions are deserving of celebration, Alvim said, noting Olympic controversy and Rio's widely reported crime, disease, poverty and lack of resources and preparation

The country signed on to something they thought they could handle during a different, more economically stable period, he said.

“So people just thought that situation was going to last for a lot of years, and it went wrong,” Alvim said. “Here in Brazil, we are kind of used to having things ready at the last moment, and that’s what I think is going to happen in the end.”

Katie Blackley is a digital editor/producer for 90.5 WESA, where she writes, edits and generates both web and on-air content for features and daily broadcast. She's the producer and host of our Good Question! series and podcast. She also covers history and the LGBTQ community. kblackley@wesa.fm