The ElectroAxé Full-Body Percussion Suit

Carnival in Salvador, Brazil is arguably one of the biggest and craziest parties this world has ever known.  With millions in attendance for what is already an incredible audio and visual display, performers are faced with the daunting task of continually bringing something new and fresh to the masses. One could always add more fireworks or visual displays (never a bad thing), but it will only take you so far. [Kyle McDonald] and [Lucas Werthein]’s answer: The ElectroAxé Full-Body Percussion Suit as demonstrated by Carlinhos Brown at Carnival 2011.

When most people hear the word “axe” as related to music they think of an electric guitar. “Axé” however, refers to a unique Afro-Caribbean fusion genre of music that originated in Salvador in the mid 1980’s and is a favorite at Carnival. [Carlinhos Brown] is a popular Brazilian percussionist and was looking for a creative new way to express himself through his song and dance. Instead of being stuck in one place near his instruments or carrying one or two drums around “marching-band style”, he is now able to move around the stage freely – his body has become his instrument.

In order to make the magic happen, [Kyle] and [Lucas] designed custom laser cut and cnc machined drum pads containing piezo sensors and integrated them with a full-body jump suit. When struck, these sensors send a signal to an Arduino with a Sparkfun Midi Shield housed in a custom enclosure on the performer’s waist. From there the MIDI signal is sent wirelessly and then audio is played through the existing sound system – it appears that a CMD WIDI X-8 wireless MIDI system is employed for the actual wireless transmission.

Although details are somewhat scarce, there are plenty of pictures, (more) available.  You really can’t argue with the results as you watch thousands of people jam along.

Come join in the festivities with video after the break!


Comments

  1. mknghorn says:

    check out a guy named futureman.he has been doing this for decades in bela fleck ‘ band the “flecktones”.

  2. zengar says:

    Laurie Anderson also did something like this in the 70s or 80s. I wish I could remember what she called it so I could track down a video and/or remember exactly when.

  3. andar_b says:

    I want one for my steering wheel. :)

    Seriously, I rock out wheel-drumming.

  4. danbuntu says:

    All see the crazy genius John Otway

  5. foo says:

    Nice build, if not a new idea. But forget the suit, I want to know what the story is with those awesome looking shoes he’s got!

  6. Leonardo B Postacchini says:

    This hardly can count as percursion though, this is just a glorified keyboard with drums settings.

    Music is truly lost…

  7. zengar says:

    Ah, found it:
    It turns out it was a really short bit because her suit wasn’t wireless so she was very nearly as stuck in place as with a normal instrument. Of course, she was stuck using 1985 technology…

  8. phyxr says:

    Y’know, every time I see tech like this (and there was a pair od drum jeans on the BBC today too) I think of John Otway.
    First saw him back in ’78, what a genius. Thanks for the link danbuntu.

  9. Leithoa says:

    and a nod to the analog version from 1964

  10. sd says:

    With respect to the creators, the project is called EletroAxé not ElectroAxé :-(

  11. Omegageek says:

    Definitely not a new idea. I saw Mick Fleetwood do something like this 20 years ago at a Fleetwood Mac concert. In the middle of an amazing drum solo, Mick stood up and walked out from behind his drum set, keeping the solo going without missing a beat, by slapping drum pads affixed all over his body. He strutted around the stage and did the craziest dance imaginable while continuing the drum solo. Then, again, without missing a beat, he walked back to his drum set, sat down, and picked up the beat with his conventional drums, and the rest of the band came on stage as they transitioned into another song. It was crazy.

    • tara says:

      I saw the same concert. I happened to google mick fleetwood playing drum body suit hoping to find some footage and found your message here. It truly was amazing.

  12. Daniel Sousa says:

    Sorry… this comments is in portuguese…

    O Brasil é cheio destas figuras que engrandece o nosso povo pelo mundo todo… é criatividade de todos nós brasileiros que nos torna únicos…

    Conheçam o Brasil…

    Abraços a todos!

    Daniel

    Translation to english:

    Brazil is full of these figures that enrich our people around the world … Creativity is all of us Brazilians that makes us unique …

    Meet Brazil …

    Thank you all!

    Daniel

  13. @foo, they’re ‘kangaroo jumps’.

    @leonardo, i think what you’re seeing + hearing isn’t any lack of design, and certainly not a lack of musical ability — just a lack of practice. the most perfect violin won’t make a decent sound unless you know how to play. and just because carlinhos is a genius at other percussion doesn’t mean was instantly able to play the suit.

    @everyone, thanks for all the positive feedback and links to earlier work :) i think this is a case where it’s great that we have people solving the same problem over and over in their own way, dealing with the requirements unique to their situation.

  14. echodelta says:

    Body percussion is what you had left when your master took away your drums. You could text on them too for several miles, and access the network. Pert neer advanced for a slave.

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