Duduka Da Fonseca: The Guy From Ipanema
His musical standards were being formed early. As a youngster, he listened to the sound being played on records in his home and seen on TV-those of Jobim, Gilberto, Dori Caymmi, Luis Bonfá, Louis Armstrong, Nat "King" Cole, Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and others. Ipanema itself wasn't yet the "in" place to be. The beaches weren't crowded. But, between the famous song and the government building a tunnel through the mountains, making passage between the northern and southern zones much easier, it grew in popularity. "We don't have many beaches in the north zone. It's not particularly pretty. But the south, with Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana, is very beautiful. It's astonishing. You have the mountains and the sea next to each other. That makes it so unique. It's a beautiful place."
"I was very lucky because at that time they had so many shows of bossa nova and of jazz instrumental Brazilian music (on TV). I was raised watching my idols at the time playing live. I was listening to albums. I was introduced at a very early age to jazz albums. I started to listen to Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Miles with Tony Williams, at an early age right after I started playing. That's how I learned, playing along with the albums of great American jazz musicians and great Brazilian jazz musicians. Watching the great Brazilian jazz musicians playing live. I never studied. I never had a formal education.
At age 14, he started his first group, Bossa Trio, with his brother Miguel on bass. They performed on television and around Rio. In the early '70s, he cofounded Mandengo, a sextet, which performed around Brazil until the drummer finally made the move to New York City. By that time, he had played with the best in Brazil-Toninho Horta, Victor Assis Brasil, Claudio Roditi, Dom Salvador, João Donato, Nana Vasconcelos, Mario Adnet, the São Paulo Symphony Orchestra, Milton Nascimento, Dori Caymmi, Raul de Souza and others.
After moving to New York, Da Fonseca established numerous Brazilian jazz groups and went to the various jazz venues in the Big Apple, meeting musicians and getting acquainted. One band in the 1980s featured saxophonist Bob Mintzer, trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Eliane Elias, guitarist Romero Lubambo, bassist Nilson Matta, percussionist Café and Gilherme Franco. It was in the '90s that Trio da Paz was formed, a group still active today. Besides appearing on more than 200 albums and playing in notable bands, Da Fonseca had an encounter with a friend who got him into teaching, something that had a big impact on his career.
The friend was Bob Weiner, who taught at Drummers Collective in New York City. "In the early '80s, he started to say, 'Hey Duduka. You gotta teach here.' But I told him I never taught before and I don't read music. He created a course at Drummers Collective, called Third World Rhythms ... I got my courage and called a friend of mine, a percussion player, Cyro Baptista. We went together and I taught a class on drums and percussion and I felt good. Then I decided to teach by myself. I stayed 16 years teaching, then Bob said, 'Let's do a book.' I said OK.
The pair spent time over a four-year span working things out in the basement of Da Fonseca's West Village apartment. "I played the patterns and Bob recorded the patterns and took notes. We worked on it, figuring what is going to be understandable for the students, step by step. It took a long time. But we did the book (Drummers Collective Series: Brazilian Rhythms for Drum Set, by Duduka Da Fonseca and Bob Weiner") and it became like a best seller. Manhattan Music published it first, then Time Warner, and now Alfred Publishing. It's been selling good since 1991. It's a book that comes with a CD ... We are very proud of the work we did. If it wasn't for Bob, I would never teach or write a book."
"Teaching is the best way for your to learn. It was very good because, since I never had a formal education, I started teaching and the students ask me, 'What do you do with your left hand?' or 'What do you do with your bass drum.' I never thought about that. I'm a street guy. I just learned and tried to play like the cats that were playing when I started to play drums. So I never really analyzed. I'm not the kind of musicians that analyzed things. I follow my intuition," he says.