By Bad Seed
Live at SESC Cultural Center in São Paulo, in 2000.
Born December 23, 1950 in São Paulo, Brazil, Cyro Baptista arrived in the U.S. in 1980 with a scholarship to the Woodstock-based Creative Music Studio, and has since emerged as one of the premier percussionists in the country. Coinciding with the rise in the public's interest of world music, Cyro has managed to record and tour with some of music's most popular names. His mastery of Brazilian percussion and the many instruments he creates himself, have catapulted him into world renown.
Recordings with Other Artists
Recently recording with pianist Herbie Hancock on his 2005 release, Possibilites, Cyro's credits read like a 'Who's Who' of modern music. In 2002 Cyro toured with Yo-Yo Ma's Brazil Project (as well as appeared on the Obrigado Brazil album - winner of two Grammy awards), Trey Anastasio (of Phish), and John Zorn. He recorded and performed worldwide with Herbie Hancock's Grammy award winning Gershwin's World. Cyro collaborated with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for a Brazilian Carnival modern jazz concert. For over two years, he toured with Paul Simon's Rhythm of the Saints tour and appears on his Concert in Central Park release. In addition, Cyro toured the globe with Sting in 2001.
Performing his unique blend of percussion with some of music's most popular artists has given Cyro remarkable credibility within the industry. The wide range of artists Cyro Baptista has performed and recorded with include: David Byrne, Derek Bailey, Kathleen Battle, Gato Barbieri, Dr. John, Brian Eno, Robert Palmer, Melissa Etheridge, Laurie Anderson,James Taylor, Michael Tilson Thomas, Daniel Barenboim, Bobby McFerrin, Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, Medeski Martin & Wood, Spyro Gyra, Trey Anastasio, Carlos Santana, Tim Sparks, Sting, Stephen Kent and John Zorn, yet the list goes on. He has also played with many respected Brazilian artists such as Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso, Ivan Lins, Marisa Monte, Badi Assad, and Nana Vasconcelos.
Cyro has performed on five Grammy award winning albums: Yo-Yo Ma's Obrigado Brazil, Cassandra Wilson's Blue Light 'Til Dawn, The Chieftains' Santiago, Ivan Lins' A Love Affair, and Herbie Hancock's highly-acclaimed Gershwin's World. A documentary on Cyro's main project, Beat the Donkey, was recorded for the prestigious WGBH-TV Boston program 'La Plaza' won 3 New England EMMY Awards in 2002, and continues to air on PBS stations nationwide.
Cyro appeared in Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel's 1990 documentary film on Fred Frith, Step Across the Border. He has also been composing music for programs on the children's television network Nickelodeon.
Beat the Donkey
Continuing the momentum, he created his own project: the percussion and dance ensemble known as Beat the Donkey. The group recently released its second CD, Love the Donkey, independently on John Zorn 's Tzadik record label, featuring the percussion-heavy beats and Brazilian rhythms. Beat the Donkey now tours the U.S., expanding into new markets taking the stage at performing arts centers, festivals, and conferences.
Cyro's debut self-titled CD with Beat the Donkey, (Tzadik) was picked by The New York Times as one of the ten best alternative albums of 2002. Readers of JAZZIZ and DRUM magazine voted it as "Best Brazilian CD of the Year" and named Cyro "Best Percussionist of 2002." Downbeat Magazine's 51st annual critics' poll selected Cyro as 'Rising Star' in percussion.
Other Solo Releases
Cyro's first solo recording, Villa Lobos/Vira Loucos, a heady mix of his own compositions with the work of the brilliant Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos, has been acclaimed as "the most courageous, bright, funny, dramatic, and imaginative work in recent memory."
Blue Note Records released Supergenerous, a duo CD recorded with guitarist Kevin Breit (KD Lang, Cassandra Wilson). Billboard called Supergenerous "pure aural pleasure" and the Washington Post noted it "a marvelous debut that manages to feel outside and intimate at the same time."