This piece is part of the Algorhythms project: artists telling stories about music they discovered from humans. Because where we discover music is an important part of its impact, and not all music is discovered through an algorithm.
In Tim Doyle’s solo project Chiminyo, percussion, techno, and computer programming come together in startling harmony. His “one-man band of a new, cyborg kind,” involves a kit of drums, cymbals, and contact mics which trigger a synth sequence or sample via Tim’s laptop whenever struck. He’s labored to perfect the technique over the past year, coding his own software patches to allow for maximum freedom and spontaneity while on stage. That unbridled, borderless sound is palpable on Tim’s debut album, I Am Panda, released last month.
Born and raised in the bucolic Hampshire town of Ringwood, England, Tim hungered for adventure from an early age. At 13, he joined his first band as a drummer, started gigging in London, and discovered the world of jazz. At 18, he left home permanently to study music composition at City University, immersing himself in West African drumming, bebop, and Turkish music. When a kidney operation put his drumming on pause, Tim taught himself piano and began dabbling in electronic music while also playing in three orchestras.
Tim currently plays in UK jazz outfits Maisha and Cykada and writes music for radio and television programs around the world. He also scored the forthcoming short film “We Met Before,” written and directed by Thalissa Teixeira.
For his Algorhythm, Tim reminisces on a midnight drumming session in Mangueira and his subsequent embrace of Brazilian music.
I remember when I was on tour once in Brazil (with a British samba group — Rhythms of the City). I was in Rio and word had spread across the group that we were going to go down to Mangueira that night to check out their Ensaio geral (general rehearsal). Mangueira (meaning mango tree) is one of the Favela areas in Rio and to my understanding on the slightly more risky side of the spectrum of where gringos should be going, but we were assured that it would be worth it. I went down with the group in a little minibus, probably around midnight, and when we pulled up to the area where it was happening it was pretty obvious that we weren't from there (understatement). After a short walk, and as the buzz on the stares increased (and the glares too), we arrived at a massive pink and green warehouse that was overflowing with music, excitement and energia! When we got in, it was absolute madness. 300 drummers and a classic overdriven sound system with 6 or so massive voices rising to the level of the drummers. All around the warehouse were people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Kids asleep at the back, ancient grandads samba-ing with beautiful women a 3rd of their age and family groups all screaming at each other, overwhelmed with exuberant joy. It's a community event, where most of the favela would go to party on a Saturday night.
Of course, my priority was the drummers. Me and some of the guys in the group stood and watched as the chaos in the bateria (the drums in a samba school) grew. People would just walk around screaming at each other, completely enraged with passion. For these guys it was way more than just playing some drums, it was life. This samba school is one of the oldest, and they hold a lot of pride in that. One of the guys in the band I was there with knew the mestre (leader of the school) and managed to blag us in to play with the bateria. I couldn't believe it. We were let through the fence and had to go up some stairs to get the bateria. I remember the smell and the general dank/sweaty air as we ascended, it was so intense. I would say we weren't exactly welcome, but we were allowed to pick up an instrument and join in. Oh my days, I've never been somewhere so intense in my life. You had to literally smash your drum so hard, and if you weren't trying to rip a hole in it some big angry man would come and scream at you in Portuguese. It was pure adrenaline, pure fire, pure testosterone injected passion. It was crazy! I played until I got blisters and cramps up my arms, along with that came a few nods of acceptance from the more friendly faces around. It may have been the strongest realisation of being able to play the "right notes" but because you don't LIVE the music, you don't know shit.
Since this night I have been on a journey going deeper into the music of Brazil. Some of my favourites, Jorge Ben, Caetano Veloso and Seu Jorge, even sing songs about Mangueira.
Sometimes where we hear music is as important as the music itself. Grey Matter is the music community where artists and listeners discover one another. Learn more and join the community here.