Dendê & Band will be releasing their second album, Back to Bahia in March 2013 with performance dates on both the East and West Coasts in March 2013. Combining Brazil’s rhythm heavy music with the grooves of afrobeat, reggae, merengue, and others from around the world Back to Bahia draws upon the energy in Bahia to reinfuse Dendê’s music with that unmistakable Bahian sound. In January 2012, Dendê returned to Bahia to record and perform with his own band for the first time since partially relocating to New York in 2001. Taking advantage of being in Bahia for the recording, the album showcases the band’s sizzling showmanship and versatility while including a host of friends who make special appearances such as Ilê Aiyê, Melvin Gibbs, Graham Haynes, Vinicius Cantuária, Magary Lord, Luizinho do Gege (Daniela Mercury) and Gerson Silva & Mikael Mutti (Carlinhos Brown) among many others.
Dendê is a percussionist, singer, composer, bandleader, teacher, and multi-instrumentalist. He’s been a professional musician since the age of 14, when he appeared in the frontline of Timbalada, Carlinhos Brown’s superstar percussion ensemble. Since 2001, he’s been splitting his time between New York and Bahia, and has played with Mongo Santamaria, Giovanni Hidalgo, Zakir Hussain, David Byrne, Melvin Gibbs and Vinicius Cantuária. His own bands include the folkloric music and dance troupe Ologundê, the acoustic Samba de Três, and Arrastão do Dendê, a traditional Afro bloco (samba party band), but it’s as leader and principal songwriter of his flagship band that Dendê has made his greatest impact.
The band has been packing clubs and festivals throughout the US and internationally over the past few years most notably at the Atrium at Lincoln Center, the Millennium Stage at the Kennedy Center, Roulette through the World Music Institute; the Lake Eden Arts Festival in North Carolina, the Kalalu Festival in Saint Lucia, Joe’s Pub, World Café Live and Johnny D’s in Boston.
Dendê (Den-DAY) was born and raised in Salvador, a city in Bahia, Brazil’s most African state. “I grew up in a poor neighborhood, surrounded by traditional music. When I was a kid I would play rhythms on the kitchen table and tell my mom I was going to be famous someday. I used to hold the drums for the older timbal players at the sambas de roda and after they’d finished playing, they’d let me play and show me the different rhythms.” Dendê also soaked up the rhythms he heard at the candomblé ceremonies he would go to in his neighborhood.
At 14, Dendê auditioned for Timbalada, the two hundred-piece percussion troupe founded by superstar Carlinhos Brown. He started in the last line and worked his way up to the front. One day Brown noticed Dendê; he was impressed with his powerful technique and made him a featured performer in the Timbalada show band. Over his eight years in the band, Dendê toured internationally with Timbalada and recorded many of their albums. He was also given the opportunity to perform and record with some of the superstars in Brazilian music like Carlinhos Brown, Marisa Monte, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil among many others.
When Timbalada trimmed down to a smaller unit, Dendê got cut, so he tried his hand at teaching. One of his students changed his life. “This guy from Rio named Flavio asked me to give him lessons,” Dendê recalls. “We clicked and after five days of knowing me he asked me if I’d think about moving to New York.” A few months later, a ticket to New York came in the mail. “Flavio played in the subway to make enough money to buy me that ticket. When I got to New York, I played in the subway with him and slept on his couch.”
Splitting his time between Bahia and New York has also infused his music with an unmistakable international flavor. Being exposed to musicians from all over the world has taught him rhythms that he never could of dreamed of in Brazil. "New York has given me opportunities that I would never have at home, but I’m glad that I can always go Back to Bahia."