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!

[vimeo w=470]

17 thoughts on “The ElectroAxé Full-Body Percussion Suit

  1. 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.

    1. I saw Mick Fleetwood in 90 doing the same thing, I couldn’t find footage either. It was arguably the most entertaining performance I have ever seen. If anyone has video of his antics, please post or direct me to where I can see.

  2. 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!


    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!


  3. @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.

  4. 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.

Leave a Reply

Please be kind and respectful to help make the comments section excellent. (Comment Policy)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.