An Exclusive Interview With Founder and Artistic Director of FogoAzul NYC and Batala Stacy Kovacs

Q: What is FogoAzul NYC?

The New York City-based all-women Brazilian Samba Reggae drum line Fogo Azul (Blue Flame) was born at the intersection of founder and Buffalo, NY native, Stacy Kovacs’ passion for Samba Reggae, her deep respect for its cultural roots as a music of protest and resistance, her belief and activism in support of gender equality and her sense of civic duty in the current environment to publicly awaken and inspire women to resist oppression and exercise their power to uplift society —loudly.

Fogo Azul is an age and ethnically diverse community of women who span the drummer spectrum from novice to professional. With a corp of more than 60 members and growing, dressed in vibrant blue the Fogo Azul drum line is a sight to behold. The group makes a memorable visual impact and its aural and vibratory presence fills performance venues and when marching in parades can be heard and felt by spectators well before and after the impressive band with its powerful Brazilian polyrhythmic layers played with infectious joy and energy on surdo, dobra, replique, snare drums by the drummers who move, en masse, in a syncopated, side-to-side step has passed by.

Q: What is you favorite song to belt out at the bar/in the car?

ANs: Mmm Bop by the Hansen Brothers. Yes, I admit this.

Q: If you could perform with anyone, in the future, who would it have to be?

Ans: I have always dreamt of opening for Madonna. Or even performing WITH her somehow. Madonna, we’re here for you!

Q:Do you have any events coming up or recording going on right now?

Ans:Yes, we are playing for the World Aids Day event at the Kings Theater in Brooklyn sponsored by Housing Works in NYC.

Q:When and why did you start playing?

ANS: I started playing piano around age 5. Then, at age 8 I started playing drums. I kept on the drums and piano until high school, when I switched over to Trombone.

Q: Which instruments do you play?

Ans: Most brass instruments, piano, drums—but not drum set. I can play all of the fun accessories as well as Brazilian repinique, surdo, caixa, agogo.

Q: Is your family musical?

Ans: My dad dabbled with the guitar, and my brother was a great piano player.

Q: What are your fondest musical memories? In your house? In your neighborhood or town?

Ans: I gotta say my fondest memories are from college in the Michigan State University Marching Band. Football games in American universities are like nothing else. Not even pro football. I find pro football so boring compared to college. We had so many opportunities in college with the marching band, travelled a lot with the band and I made a ton of friends.

Q: How do you handle mistakes during a performance?

Ans: I have a motto: “Wrong and Strong.” or “loud and Proud.”

Q: Do you get nervous before a performance or a competition?

Ans: Actually, yes. I usually don’t want to even leave my house. I try to come up with excuses in my head about having a headache, or not feeling well. This goes for both rehearsals as well as shows. It’s weird, because once I am there it’s like the best thing ever, I am not sure what I am even anxious or nervous about!

Q: How often and for how long do you practice?

Ans: We practice once a week for 3 hours. Sometimes on the weekends too. We also bring food and snacks to practice to have together as a family during the rehearsal breaks.

Q: How do you balance your music with other obligations – mate, children, job?

Ans: Well, music is actually my hobby. I started drumming with various Samba bands in NYC in about 2010. I played in various marching bands in NYC as well around that time. I started FogoAzul NYC for fun. I love teaching music, especially these rhythms to as many women as possible. I work full time in a major NYC hospital as a Physician Assistant. That’s how I make money to live. This group I get zero money from as all funds the group gets paid goes towards the monthly expenses of running it.

FogoAzul NYC NPR Tiny Desk 2017 Submission

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