Words by Philip Sherburne
If batida no longer sounds quite as alien as it did upon a first encounter with its spinning rotors and elliptical movements, it’s still dazzling in its rhythmic complexity: Atop a shuffling approximation of a 4/4 beat balances an unsteady beehive of motion, aswarm with kinetic energy. And for most of us, it still takes an incredible amount of effort to parse—more processing power than most listeners are equipped with. It scans as pure blur, and exhilaratingly so.
Enter DJ Firmeza, of Pequenos DJs Do Guetto, who steps up with his solo debut on Príncipe. The basics of his sound are familiar: the sound of leather and wood, of hollow rattle, of beats split open like broken drumsticks. What is different this time around is the length to which Firmeza has drawn out his fugue state. Instead of the two- and three-minute blasts of PDDG’s record, “Alma do Meu Pai” (“Soul of My Father”) stretches to six-and-a-half minutes. The shift is not just quantitative, but qualitative, especially given the extreme repetition of his arrangements. As one-bar loops roll on and on, your attention wanders from drum to drum, and when a new element enters the mix, interrupting the reverie, it takes on the force of argument. As any language teacher could tell you, it turns out that immersion, like that offered here, does amazing things for comprehension. You emerge from the song feeling not just proficient in batida’s hypnotic language but fluent, almost telepathically so. It is a remarkable sensation.