Carnaval San Francisco 2018

In response to Carnaval San Francisco’s 40th anniversary theme, “Roots of Carnaval / Raíces del Carnaval,” Batalá San Francisco commemorates the Afro-Brazilian roots of samba reggae. As the Bay Area’s contingent of the international drumming organization with over thirty sister groups scattered over the world, we honor the cultural legacy that grounds us in the Afro-Brazilian heritage of Salvador, Bahia. We take pride in the hands of diverse colors that activate our drums and fill the air with vibrating rhythms. And we celebrate our red hearts that beat in global unison.

2018 Women's March Oakland

Batalá San Francisco was proud to participate in the Second Annual Women's March in Oakland on January 20, 2018. Twenty-five drummers joined the thousands who marched in solidarity.

Batalá San Francisco's Fifth Anniversary

October 5, 2017 was Batalá San Francisco's fifth anniversary. We were grateful and excited to reach this amazing milestone. FIVE YEARS! It almost seemed like yesterday when we began our fledgling band. We've been through many wonderful times together--playing music together in so many wonderful venues. We've played together in burning heat and near darkness, traveled to play with our sister bands' together, climbed mountains together and walked the Golden Gate Bridge together; hosted nearly a hundred drummers from all over the world together; cried, and laughed, and danced, and sweated together; supported each other through hard times together; been slapped in the face with our friends, the samba dancers' feathers; been uplifted together by responsive audiences and fended off drunk partiers together; spent our holidays together; and most importantly, made lasting friendships with wonderful people from all over the globe. WE ARE GRATEFUL to master Giba Gonçalves for his inspiration and leadership, to our sister bands for their support and guidance, and to all our members past and present who have devoted their time and talent and hard work to building and caring for our Batalá SF community.

Carnaval SF 2017

Following Carnaval San Francisco’s overarching theme “El Corazón de San Pancho / The Heart of San Francisco” Batalá SF's 2017 carnaval theme w: “Our Hearts Beat in Unity / Nossos Corações Batem em Unidade.”

This theme sums up our mission to build community and breach difference through music and dance. It speaks both to the activist tradition of the Bay Area (Free Speech Movement, Anti-War Movement, Black Panthers, United Farm Workers, etc.) and to its current role as a stalwart community of compassion and justice within an increasingly contentious political terrain.

Carnaval SF 2017, photograph by Stephanie Barajas


A two-year project organizing a massive reunion of 120 drummers from Batala sister groups all over the world took place from May 23 through May 30, 2016. Batalá SF organized seven days of events that spanned San Francisco and the East Bay--including a wine tour to Napa Valley, a round-robin drumming welcome event at Luka's, drumming and picnicing on beautiful Lake Merritt, a boat party with my inspirational daughter exciting the crowd with her music, two walking tours of SF, Black Panther tour of Oakland, a bar crawl and beer tour, three workshops with master drummer and founder of Batalá Giba Goncalves (one at the historic Presidio), a "en masse" walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, three performances at the Carnaval SF Festival, and the Carnaval SF Parade, and finally, a farewell party at The Bottom of the Hill with DJ Petra and live music by Rumbache.

The annual international event--Encontro--proves that drumming, dancing, and singing together are love-filled, community-building, artistic endeavors that span diverse cultures and languages. The farewells to all our friends--who we danced, drummed, and sweated with--were tearful, and from their shining faces we know it was a success.

We greeted old friends and made new ones, learning that nationality and language difference can be breeched by the international language of drumming. As one of the Batala Washington DC members stated: "The power of music is that dozens of drummers who have never met can walk into a bar, strap on some drums, play the same music and become instant family...."

The centerpiece of the week's events was participation in Carnaval SF's parade down Mission Street. With 120 drummers from eighteen sister bands; fifteen youth dancers from Rites of Passage, Dimensions Dance Theater led by Latanya Tigner; four adult dancers; and dozens of volunteers.

Photo by Marco Sanchez

AMERICAS: Durham, Houston, Los Angeles, Mexico, New York, San FranciscoWashington DC

EUROPE: Austria, Boom, Gwada, La Rochelle, Massif, Nantes, Netherlands

UK: Bristol, Lancaster, London, Mersey 

Nine members of Batalá San Francisco traveled to Mexico in November 2015 to join Batalá Mexico and Batalá Tepoztlán for Dia de los Muertos festivities. Members from sister bands Batalá Washington DC, Los Angeles, Houston, and Netherlands played together during workshops with Giba Gonçalves and performances, hiked together to the pyramids of Teotihuacán (outside of Mexico City) and El Tepozteco (outside of Tepoztlán), and took part in local festivities during a magical week in Mexico.

On October 5, 2014, Batalá San Francisco celebrated the successes of two years and joyfully anticipated its third year. About forty members, family, and friends met at the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland, CA to celebrate together with food, conversation, games, and percussion.

We are proud to announce that Batalá Mundo Mestre Giba Goncalves has appointed our very own Executive Director, Mick Gardner, to the post of Communications Coordinator and Batalá Washington DC's Musical Director, Alison Rodden, to the position of Musical Coordinator of Batalá North America. Both Alison and Mick will continue their respective roles within their home groups, while assuming their new coordinating positions.

We look forward to growth and coordination for Batalá North America under their leadership and expertise. Alison brings to the position many years of experience and a wealth of knowledge she has accumulated as Musical Director of Batalá Washington DC. Mick co-founded Batalá San Francisco and has extensive professional experience in program development and management in the non-profit world.

Their task is to facilitate structural and musical communication, coordination, and cohesion between the North American Batalá entities, including Batalá Washington DC, Batalá NYC, Batalá SF, Batalá Houston, Batalá LA, and Batalá Mexico City.

We hope all Batalá North America and Batalá Mundo members will send Mick and Alison words of encouragement and support!!!!


Five members of Batalá San Francisco joined members from Batalá Washington DC, New York City, Houston, Athens, Paris, London, Liverpool, Nantes, Brasilia, and Gwada for Encontro 2014. Organized by Batalá Washington DC, more than one hundred drummers converged on the capital, attended workshops with Giba Goncalves, performed, paraded in the Pride Parade, and partied together. Old friends met again and new friendships were forged.

 Photo by Antonio Skydad

 Photo by Antonio Skydad

Photo by Antonio Skydad




Batalá San Francisco played Sunday Streets.

In honor of Black History Month, members of Batalá San Francisco performed in the San Francisco County Jail in San Bruno, CA. Members spoke about the history of Batala in Salvador, Bahia, the connection to African traditions, and the development of samba reggae as a part of the black empowerment movement in the 1970s. The incarcerated men asked questions about the origins of the drums and inquired if it would be possible to join the group once they were released. Incarcerated artists drew thank you cards to express their appreciation for Batalá San Francisco coming into the the jail to entertain and educate them. 

In December 2012 fifty drummers of Batala Mundo (members from Paris, Brasilia, Washington DC, New York City, Houston, and San Francisco) opened for four 50th Anniversary Rolling Stones concerts in New York City and Newark.

Twenty-five members of Batala San Francisco made their debut at Oakland Art Murmur's First Friday events.

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