Michael de Miranda in The Power of Rhythm Podcast

Michael originally comes from Aruba but he lives in the Netherlands. He’s a highly regarded percussionist and drum teacher and he really knows how a tumbao rhythm should sound, how you make a great repinique call and how to play many different traditional rhythms from Cuba, Brazil or Africa.

Michael is a music educator with a passion to make videos for people who want to learn about percussion. He’s been creating videos on YouTube since 2010. He’s more than 300 videos in which he teaches different rhythms and instruments, techniques, styles and more.

 “ I use the traditions and I try to create my own rhythms. I like to make combinations from traditions from Brazil and Cuba, playing Brazilian music on Cuban instruments or the other way around. But with respect. That’s why I think the traditions are for me very important.

– Michael de Miranda

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Transcript of this Episode

REINHARD
Today again it will be five questions in 25 minutes. And that means, intense reflections, active engagement and hopefully  deep revelations about rhythm; the one thing that connects us all.

My guest today originally comes from Aruba but he lives in the Netherlands. He’s a highly regarded percussionist and drum teacher and he really knows how a tumbao rhythm should be played, how you make a great repinique call and beside of that, he’s also composing great music.

Welcome Michael de Miranda.

MICHAEL
Thank you for this great introduction. I’m honored to be here on your show.

REINHARD
Let’s get right to it. First question: what was your first direct experience of rhythm?

MICHAEL
Well, that’s a long time ago. I was a child and actually when I grew up I think my father brought me in contact with rhythm. My father is from Suriname and he’s actually a musician, a classical guitarist. But besides classical music, he never forgot his roots. He’s from Suriname, from South America, and he played also music from Brazil and he moved to Aruba and listened to the radio from Cuba. So when I grew up we listened to that music too. We heard it every day. It was normal for us and at that time I thought it was normal for every family that they would listen to the same music. Later I found out that it wasn’t like this.

REINHARD
You grew up in the Netherlands, right, but you grew up surrounded by mostly Latin American rhythms, that’s right?

MICHAEL
That’s right, yes.

REINHARD
I know that you studied in Africa, in Cuba and in Brazil and you play traditional rhythms really great. That is a nice task and of course it honors the tradition. But what’s about creating rhythms? What’s about improvisation? What’s your take on that?

MICHAEL
I studied a lot of music and I traveled to all those countries to see how they played it and for me, it’s important to know the traditions. But I’m also aware that I’m from the Netherlands. I am not a Cuban percussionist. I’m not from Brazil. I’m not from Africa. So that means that I use rhythms that are played on sabar, bugarabou or congas, I use the traditions and I try to create my own rhythms. So I like to make combinations from traditions from Brazil and Cuba, playing Brazilian music on Cuban instruments or the other way around. But with respect, and that’s why I think the traditions are for me very important. So I can explain why I took this rhythm and combined it with something from another culture and why I think it’s a great combination and why it has the same flow. That’s for me important.

REINHARD
I think in this you’re very successful. I have a proof here. I want to actually play one song from the album Fora de Hora, it’s Eu vou Eu vou. Where did you record it? In Brazil I guess. And who is the voice?

MICHAEL
Well, no. I recorded it in the Netherlands with all Dutch musicians. In the Netherlands the level of music making is very high. We have very good percussion players. The singer actually is from Brazil, Lilian Vieira.

REINHARD
Yes, very clear to here.

MICHAEL
She played in a famous group called Zuco 103. She’s very good. I like to work with her.

REINHARD
Let’s listen to that song “Eu vou, eu vou”.

Eu vou, eu vou by Michael de Miranda sounds

That is from the album Fora de Hora from Michael de Miranda, that we have today as a guest here. You see, when we are listening to music we have this joy that attracts to it that is groove. You know, we are coming into groove. My question is: if you were to explain or kind of offer to someone who is not in music at all, what groove is, how it is to be in the groove, what would you tell that person?

MICHAEL
Well, that’s difficult. Very often I gave workshops for companies and very often there are people that when I get to take the drums out they come to me and they say “I don’t have any feeling for rhythm, I have never done something…” And they are always afraid and then after just one hour they are completely in the groove and they are enjoying and having this positive energy. But most of the time what I try to explain is that rhythm is everywhere. Everybody has rhythm. You have your heart. The rhythm of your heart is a base, it actually is a kind of basic groove unless you are doing sports, then it’s going up tempo. But when I would try to inspire somebody I would talk about the feeling of energy that is released and also that the feeling of playing together with others is…

REINHARD
Let’s go very simple. Like there is a person who does not know how orgasm feels like. You can explain like „you do this and then finally that comes…” but no one will know what it is. You say “oh, everything dissolves into timelessness…” Just try to do that. What is groove for you? Describe groove very shortly, please.

MICHAEL
Groove for me is life. Groove is everywhere. Groove is breathing. Groove is the waves pounding on the beach each time, every time repeating. It’s actually a basic part of life.

REINHARD
Here comes the one million dollar question. How does it feel? Just describe that feeling.

MICHAEL
To talk about feelings it’s always difficult. I think it’s difficult to describe but it is like melting together in a warm bath. It’s warm, it’s intense and it can be overwhelming rhythm. Still I think it’s difficult to put in words.

REINHARD
No, you did it. Thank you Michael for going with me. Because it’s really like you said. It is like a warm bath… everyone can kind of relate to that, and this is your personal experience. We are together to get to know what you have to say. That’s why we’re here.

So here comes the next question. Five minutes before you go on stage, before you start a recording or before you start a workshop… Guide us into this landscape. Are you nervous? Are you calm? Do you meditate? What are you doing?

MICHAEL
I actually relax most of the time and I’m already preparing in my head for what is coming next. If it’s a performance or workshop, it doesn’t matter. And actually just before, in the minutes before I go on to stage, most of the time -it sounds strange- but I’m always rubbing my hands and people always think that I’m cold. It’s for building up tension and I can do this in seconds. So when I start doing this then adrenaline is coming to what I have to do. So 10 minutes before I’m relaxed and just preparing. And then just before I go on to the stage I give myself energy by rubbing my hands and then I’m there in the moment.

REINHARD
Great. Many of our listeners also might be musicians and they have many different ways to prepare. Try this one out, getting the energy going and get ready for the intensity of what’s coming up.

MICHAEL
Yes, building up a kind of tension and that all my muscles and everything, my complete body, is then prepared for the thing I’m going to do.

REINHARD
You have built up a very huge online learning platform. You can almost find everything from the tumbao to the repinique call to how samba should be played. When did you start this project? I mean, now everyone is online in corona times. But you must have started very early. So, how did you start? What made you go there? Because that’s important for many people now. They say, “what would I do…”

MICHAEL
I started in 2010. More than 10 years ago. It was not my goal to give lessons. I wanted to learn a software to edit videos and I was working with green screen. I thought this was nice I and wanted to know how it worked. Then I thought that when you want to learn something, you have to do this as much as possible. Then I thought, “well, what is something that is easy for me?” And for me it is easy to teach and at that moment there were not that many lessons or good quality percussion lessons on youtube. There were good percussionists already but very often the audio and video quality was not good. So then I thought “well, let’s start explaining a rhythm with green screen and then I can make my own background.” Explaining for me is easy, so I started. My first videos they have strange backgrounds and I do funny things… Because I’m never up front I thought “let’s start with a rhythm that is not that well known, not that popular.” So I started with a rhythm called makuta, toque de makuta, it’s from Cuba. From Cuba most of the time it’s about rumba, about cha-cha-cha, but makuta, nobody knows. So I thought, “let’s do something that nobody will look at.” But I posted it and immediately I got reactions from the United States, from this and that. And then after five lessons I stopped with the green screen thing because it’s a lot of work and then I started to answer the questions that I got and started to produce more lessons. That’s the way I started.

REINHARD
Great! And for that you obviously went to Cuba, Africa, Brazil…I’ve been in Cuba actually in the carnival in 76. It was completely closed at that time and it was only a music group from San Francisco that I played in that could go in. When you have been in Cuba, what did you see or whom did you visit? Or where have you been?

MICHAEL
Well the first time I went, I went to La Havana and I studied with a teacher that in the 80s came to to the Netherlands to teach at the conservatory. And so I visited him and I wanted to know more about the folkloric part of Cuba but I also went to Matanzas because I love the rhythms from Matanzas. I started with Roberto Fiscalino. He’s a great percussionist and he played modern percussion and everything together, playing timbales with his right hand and congas with his left-hand.

REINHARD
Just for our listeners, Matanzas is really the capital of rumba. The Muñequitos de Matanzas and all of that. But also, of course, Santiago de Cuba is very big in the carnival because it’s the old carnival.

So you have been learning in Africa, Cuba and Brazil. Tell us…what do they have in common and what is the difference? Like also from your learning experience. How was your learning experience in these three locations?

MICHAEL
The thing that is in common is that the rhythms are built up in all kind of small parts. The bell is playing this small part, one drum is playing this small part, then a bass drum is this, and it’s when they are put together in the right way that it is like a wheel which is turning and it’s going. Then you have the right flow. This is in Brazil, this is in Cuba and this is in Africa. It’s everywhere the same. Small parts that fit together. And another thing which they have in common is how the beat is subdivided, the timing of rhythms. So it’s not like house music that every small notes have the same length.

And the differences are that, for instance the difference between Africa and Latin American, is how the European instruments are used. Let’s take the piano. When the Africans in Cuba could play on the piano, they played it like a rhythm instrument. And the way they play the chords, the way they break down the chords…they make it like a timbales rhythm. That’s different than in Africa. You don’t see this. They don’t do this. The way the piano or guitar is used in Brazil… they also play rhythms like on the small tambourine. This is not the way they play in in Africa.

So it’s not only the new instruments that came there by the Europeans but it’s also that new instruments were developed. The Africans that went to Latin America they couldn’t bring their instruments. Of course you will see now djembes in Brazil. But at that time they had to create their own instruments. So for instance, congas is an instrument from Cuba, not from Africa. And it’s developed from instruments that were brought by the people from Congo and Angola. They had similar instruments but they couldn’t bring them so they created their own instruments. The clave is not from Africa. The one thing they say is that in the ships, the ropes were connected with wooden pins and with these wooden pins, in the harbor of La Habana and Matanzas, they created this instrument.

REINHARD
Yes, and it’s the same with a berimbau. There’s a lot of music bows in Africa but the berimbau just is from Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.

Thank you Michael, this is a very very clear and comprehensive description of this learning methods where you have been. Now, last question. If you had unlimited resources or almost unlimited resources and you could do your favorite project, what would this be?

MICHAEL
I think it would be bringing musicians together and offer them a place and the possibilities to create music, new music, or to experiment. I like it when musicians come together and they experiment. Not everything will be a success but giving this platform where they can meet and exchange knowledge and music. I think it would be something like this. Not to make something commercial but to see what happens when people meet each other and they know their instruments, their history, their hub, and they bring it, but they are drawn a little bit out of their comfort zone and then something new will be created. I think something like this would be the thing that I would create.

REINHARD
Michael, that sounds really wonderful and we are actually praying that you and the universe will come together and it will provide this founding for you. 
Yes, great people can come together and encounter through rhythm.
Thank you very much for your time and thank you very much for your knowledge. Let our listeners know where they can find you on the net, please.

MICHAEL
You can find me on YouTube just by filling out my name or on Patreon or on Facebook. I’m also on Instagram as @michaeldemiranda.official

I want to thank you for the invitation. I’m honored to be here in your show.

REINHARD
It’s absolutely a big pleasure and to our listeners, please check Michael out. He has a lot of great stuff. Whenever you are playing a drum and you don’t know how to do this o that correctly, look it up. It’s a lot of really hands-on advice, hands-on knowledge.

With that, if you like my podcast please leave a comment, tell me whom you want to hear next and for now, have a great day and keep on groovin’.

Please leave a comment below, and let me know what you think!
I’m curious about your sharings, thoughts and feedback.

Thanks, Reinhard

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