Berimbau musical bow ensemble celebrates 2nd album with NIU performance

Berimbau musical bow ensemble celebrates second album with three concerts

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DeKALB – Nearly six years ago, Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bow players with Northern Illinois University ties began working on their first album that was meant to showcase the instrument in a way it hasn’t been heard anywhere in the world.

A year-and-a-half ago, that album was up for consideration for the 2018 Grammy Awards in the Best World Music Album and Best Chamber/Small Ensemble Album categories.

Now, Projeto Arcomusical, a percussion sextet that plays Afro-Brazilian berimbau musical bows, is celebrating the release of its second album, “Spinning in the Wheel,” with three concerts in March.

The ensemble will perform its new album from top to bottom from 8 to 9:30 p.m. March 7 at the NIU Music Building in DeKalb, from 4 to 6 p.m. March 10 at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York, and from 8:30 to 10 p.m. March 17 at Constellation in Chicago.

“[The concert] represents the album in the best way that we can,” Kyle Flens, a member of the group and one of the composers, said, referring to the way it’s meant to be listened to.

“Spinning in the Wheel” also features composers Elliot Cole, group member and NIU alumna Alexis Lamb, and Greg Beyer, NIU percussion professor and the group’s artistic director. The album, which will be released March 8, explores new avenues of producing sound and expression, like sometimes singing or sometimes stomping their feet, Flens said.

“It’s kind of a new sound compared to the previous album,” he said.

Beyer said the album includes seven works, six of which were written by him, Lamb and Flens. He said Projeto Arcomusical is more mature as an ensemble and in their playing, and he feels the new album reflects that and represents an entirely new stage in the group’s development.

“It’s a moment encaptured in time that is meant to demonstrate our profound respect for the tradition of musical bow in Brazil and Africa and to become one with that tradition and have a voice in where it might go next,” Beyer said.

Flens said the ensemble released its first music video for the fourth movement of “Roda,” a piece composed by Cole, in the past week. He said it was Cole’s idea to make the video, and the ensemble just wanted to keep making more videos for more pieces on the album.

“In the world of social media, it’s really easy to spread videos to kind of promote yourself and show the world what you’re doing through online types of things,” Flens said.

Projecto Arcomusical worked with Dan Nichols and Aphorism Studios for audio recordings and with Evan Chapman and Kevin Eikenberg of Four/Ten Media for music videos. The group will share videos from the new album in the next few months on Facebook and on its website,

Beyer said the next steps for Projeto Arcomusical include a performance of a concerto version of “Roda” with the Arizona State Symphony Orchestra on March 31 in Arizona.

“We hope that performance will encourage people to continue to want to see the instrument and develop the curiosity about it,” Beyer said.