Musical Conservation

Post originally uploaded on Thursday, June 10th, 2010 at

One of my only reservations about performing research in Brasil was the language barrier.  I came to Brasil a few years ago and got pretty comfy with the language, but I wasn’t sure how I would fare after not having been in a Portuguese environment or conversation since.  Once I arrived to Praia do Forte, and had to depend on Portuguese to accomplish even the simplest tasks, the language started rushing back to me.  I quickly reached the level at which I had been in 2007 and picked up where I had left off on the learning curve; but despite several encouraging compliments from locals, I still came home at the end of the day with a fried brain from so much concentration during conversation.

This Monday, there was a rehearsal for a local band called Casco Cabeça, which is made up of some Tamar employees and other locals.  I showed up not knowing what to expect and introduced myself to the percussionist.  He received me warmly, gave me a place to sit, and motioned toward a bag containing an array of miscellaneous auxiliary percussion instruments. The moment the band struck the downbeat, I was in my element; fluently communicating with everyone in the room for the first time in days.  A drum fill cued my entrance, my patterns molded to changes in the bass line, and the other percussionist and I flowed seamlessly between complementary ostinatos as verse led to chorus.  I had never experienced such unmistakable evidence supporting the fact that Music it the closest anything can be to a universal language.

The stark and astonishing contrast between my relative influidity in Portuguese and my perfect comfort in Music made me fully realize the potential applications of Music in conveying conservation messages to the public.  I started off this blog by proposing that effective social change is a bottom-up process, beginning with personal experience and education at the individual level.  Guy Marcovaldi, national coordinator and founder of Projeto Tamar, has embedded this very strategy in his organization from the very start and in the past few years has begun to use Music as an effective vehicle for marine conservation.  He’s constantly recording new songs and writing lyrics in his home studio in Praia do Forte, most of which include sea turtles or marine life in some way.  Guy has organized concerts at Tamar stations throughout Brazil and has spared no expense in making them fantastic.  He’s hired professional musicians, music directors, sound engineers, videographers, and photographers to ensure quality in all aspects of the Music coming out of Projeto Tamar.  For live performances he’s brought in scores of famous Brazilian artists.  Some bring their entire bands and some appear as guest artists with the house band, Casco Cabeça (Shell Head).

Casco Cabeça regularly plays shows at the main stage in the Tamar visitor’s center here in Praia do Forte.  Last Saturday, I watched them play an Earth Day concert, which had quite a turnout of both tourists and locals (surprisingly around 50/50, as far as I could tell).  In the very front was a throng of local kids excitedly singing along the lyrics to a catchy song whose chorus contains the Latin names of all five species of sea turtle that nest in Brazil: “Dermochelys coriacea imbricata e careta, chelonia mydas olivacea, nosso time e campeón!” When the band finished the crowd cheered for an encore; some people started shouting names of other songs about turtles.  As a musician, it’s very rare to hear a good song whose lyrics have been tailored to achieve a practical goal; but the music is more than just passable, it’s professionally crafted by Brazil’s best musicians.

After a second rehearsal with Casco Cabeça today, I was invited to play with them at a show on Saturday commemorating Tamar’s 30th anniversary as an organization.  Check back in on Sunday for pictures and videos of the performance.


  1. I am in awe of your opportunity to become so steeped in the community and culture in which you worked. It sounds really exciting and interesting. I feel that being able to get so involved with the place and the people that you were working with could only enhance your work and I’m sure was incredibly rewarding.