What is it about Brazil? Either everyone born there is gorgeous or they're not giving passports to those who aren't. The country's bikinis are tiny and waxing regimens correspondingly extreme. And let's not forget: Brazil throws the most decadent celebration of the year. But there would be no ass-shaking at Carnaval without Brazil's most beloved export: music.
Alex Koberle, singer and guitarist for San Francisco's Bat Makumba, knows what the rhythms of his native country can do to a crowd. Bat Makumba plays its pulsating fusion of Brazilian funk-rock to packed houses in the band's Bay Area home base and along the West Coast.
Koberle formed the band in 2000 with drummer and fellow Brazilian ex-pat Emiliano Benevides and "Americano" bassist Carl Remde. The name comes from the '70s tropicalia tune by Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil (later popularized by Os Mutantes). Bat Makumba's music steamrolls south-of-the-equator sounds like samba and forro into punk, ska and funk. It's world music--but then again, what music isn't?
"Everything is world music," Koberle points out with bemusement. "If you're in Japan, American music is world music. It doesn't describe much, even though it's encompassing. But if you call us Latin music, we're not really that, either."
Nevertheless, accolades have been bestowed in both of those genres. The San Francisco Chronicle named Bat Makumba one of the Five Latin Bands to Watch. SF Weekly gave 'em a Best World nod. And the band's 2003 self-titled debut took the California Music Awards' Best Latin Alternative Album title.
The Bay Area has been good to Bat Makumba, partly because it's a region where cultural differences are the norm.
"A lot of world travelers settle in San Francisco," Koberle muses, explaining why the city's so readily embraced his band. "It's a city that's very interested in other cultures. There are a lot of people with international awareness."
"But," he adds, "Brazilian music is very popular everywhere right now--Brazilian culture in general."
Well, yes. Who doesn't love a culture that prefaces Lent, a religion-mandated period of abstinence, with an orgasm of a party elevating every last pleasure of the flesh. (Carnaval takes place Feb. 17 through 20, in case you want to start fluffing your tail feathers.)
And who doesn't love music that beckons every last inner dancing freak? If Bat Makumba's opening drum circle doesnï¿½t get you as it winds through the audience, the unrelenting energy of its live show will.
"San Diego's a fun crowd," says Koberle. "We're excited about getting the party started."
Bat Makumba plays at Winston's on Thursday, Feb. 15. Doors open at 8 p.m. 619-222-6822.