Percussionist tours with Brazilian bow

By Sabreena Saleem

Alexis Lamb, senior music education and percussion performance major, tuned an Afro-Brazilian bow instrument Monday before rehearsing for her Projeto Arcomusical.

Lamb has been working closely with percussion associate professor Greg Beyer on a project that features an Afro-Brazilian instrument called the berimbau. In addition to touring the Midwest, Lamb will perform Nov. 10 at the Music Building.

Northern Star: Can you tell me a little bit about the project?

Alexis Lamb: The project started off as a continuation of Greg, Dr. Beyer’s, dissertation that he did for his doctoral degree, and it was specifically on this instrument, the berimbau, which is an Afro-Brazilian instrument. It came over to Brazil from Africa via [the] slave trade, and it’s traditionally used in Brazil for a martial art called Capoeira … .

It’s used as a musical combination along with the actual endurance dance-like moves that are Capoeira. But what he and I are doing with this project is combining both the research part, [such as] taking Capoeira classes [and] practicing Capoeira, and the artistry part, [which] is writing new pieces for this instrument … .

NS: How long have you been working on this?

AL: I started in the spring of 2013, so this would be the fourth semester. But the song cycle, the 12 pieces that we’re writing, we’ll finish up next semester. It started off as my honors independent contract because I’m also in the honors college … .

NS: How did you get into the instrument?

AL: My freshman year in the second semester I was given a piece for the percussion ensemble that was for a berimbau sextet. Here at NIU we have an ensemble, the NIU Bau-House, that’s the sextet, and it was just one of the pieces that we played, and I really enjoyed the instrument. And then upon a couple contracts later for the honors college, Greg had approached me and asked me if I wanted to partake in this project with him and I said “yes.”

NS: So did he just choose you or did he also choose other people?

AL: He just chose me initially because of the contract we had so I’m the only one, along with him, that’s writing pieces every semester for this instrument.

NS: What other instruments do you play?

AL: As a percussion major, it can be anything. I can play anything from flower pots to berimbau to snare drum to tympani and … even tea cups. I also play guitar and bass.

NS: What’s your favorite part about the [berimbau]?

AL: The simplicity. The sound of it is very pure and just having the limited number of notes to me is more of a challenge than having a limitless range, but at the same time that’s where its simplicity becomes complex, and I really appreciate that about the instrument.