It’s almost impossible to find music from New Orleans or Brazil that doesn’t have some connection to their respective Carnival traditions, featuring parades, call and response, roaring and rapid percussion, and most importantly - revelry! As Scott Kettner, band leader, describes, “Our goal with Carnival Caravan is to expose our fans to the traditional music of these cultural celebrations. Most people aren’t aware of the Maracatu or Mardi Gras Indian traditions, and we want to bring this to our fans in the most interactive, enjoyable way - with our own particular twist of course” With their deliciously original sound and energy, they want to show audiences that there’s “more to the New Orleans party than just hanging out on Bourbon Street getting drunk.” Featuring musicians and party starters from Brazil, Brooklyn and The Big Easy, the project is naturally intertwined with movement and travel. Kettner’s partners include front woman Fabiana Masili, a soaring powerhouse vocalist and rising Brazilian star with a commanding stage presence and raucous, versatile guitarist Jules Belmont. The band is further propelled by fluid, animated bassist Chris Venditti and Brazilian percussionist Fernando Saci. When they hit the road together to tour it’s literally a caravan: “a Carnival party on wheels!”
Nation Beat has shared the stage with artists such as Willie Nelson, Stanton Moore (of Galactic) and the legendary Maracatu Nação Estrela Brillante from Recife, Brazil. Nelson heard the group via an NPR segment in 2008, the invited them to play at his Farm Aid concert. “Hanging with Willie Nelson was a very overwhelming experience” says Scott. “He's an American icon and has been one of my musical heroes since I was a kid. Willie was very encouraging towards us and also very genuine. After playing with us his manager told me that he hasn't seen Willie smile so much on stage in a long time.” When asked about Nation Beat, The Red Headed Stranger enthused “Just a fantastic group. I was overwhelmed”.
Their recording project and subsequent tour with Maracatu Nação Estrela Brillante (“Maracatu Nation Bright Star”), titled “A Tale of Two Nations”, earned raves from the likes of The New York Times and The Village Voice. The latter stated that Nation Beat is “globe-spinning, dangerously funky…Sure they're rooted in a mash-up of big-booming Brazilian maracatu rhythms and the percolating rat-tat-tat of New Orleans second line...But dig a little deeper and you'll find the downhome whine of Southern-fried slide guitar, deep country melodies and beaming zydeco flavors.” The American/Brazilian collective also counts NPR’s Banning Eyre as a fan, calling them “the most original and alluring fusion group I have heard in years.”
In 2002, Scott began teaching maracatu percussion classes in New York to bring the rhythm he was so passionate about broader recognition and to build a community and an audience around it. In 2006 and again in 2008 he brought twenty students to Recife, Brazil to perform at Carnival, the country’s grandest and culturally resonant celebration. Scott created a cultural exchange program that over time saw Maracatu New York evolve into a top-notch professional percussion group that has inspired countless other groups and artists worldwide.
Scott met Spy Boy “Honey” Banister and fellow percussionist Joe Gellini of Cha Wa in New Orleans during a undoubtedly rowdy Mardi Gras parade. Honey, a traditional Mardi Gras Indian, leads the band with joyful flair, and his intricate suit, fashioned with beads, feathers, and sequins is an immediate show stopper wherever he performs.
“Many artists in the world music field jump around from country to country over the span of their career,” Scott muses. “But I haven’t nudged an inch. Brazil and New Orleans have remained my source of inspiration for more than 10 years.” As an American and Brazilian collective, Nation Beat truly belongs to both sides of the equator. Look out for the “Carnival Caravan” coming to your market this summer!
North American Tour Dates
June 27 @ SOBs - New York City, NY
July 8th @ Carl Schurz Park - NYC, NY
July 11th-12th @ SunFest - London, ON
July 14th @ PanAm Games - Toronto, ON
July 30th @ Huntington Summer Arts Festival - Huntington, NY
July 31st @ Littlefield - Brooklyn, NY
Aug 1st @ Queens Library - Queens, NY
Aug 2 @ Summer Stage - New York City, NY (with Nação Zumbi)
Aug 8th @ Musikfest - Bethlehem, PA