Gig of the week: Sugar Cane


Brazilian national Julio Daniel didn’t take long to adopt a Kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude to life – especially when it comes to taking his music to the people.

Daniel’s samba combo, Sugar Cane, play at Revolver on Saturday, continuing a string of recent appearances at local venues.

But the transition from party band to performance troupe might never have happened without a good deal of nerve on his behalf.

Late-night jams with makeshift instruments started two years ago when Daniel opened his home to countrymen keen to celebrate the music of their homeland. Those weekly parties were as far as most of Daniel’s mates wanted to take their music.

But after a couple of years honing their act and improving their musicianship, Daniel went ahead and booked a gig.

“I started to tell them, ‘Man, we could do this in pubs, for the Brazilians,’ but everybody believed we could not do it,” says Daniel, who’s lived in the resort for three years.

“So one day I suddenly arrived and said, ‘I’ve got a gig for us in Wanaka.’

“They said, ‘What? We don’t have any instruments!’ They wanted to kill me.”

The jam-band had been using everything from cardboard boxes to garbage cans and rice-filled beer cans as percussion instruments, relying on acoustic guitars to carry the melody. It was up to Daniel to buy the gear they needed to first step out in public, and the band have continued to build on that investment with each paying gig.

Because there are regional differences in samba styles, Sugar Cane include “the good stuff” from all over the Brazil in their repertoire, Daniel says.

“We have a lot of percussion – drums, bongos, djembe and some Brazilian drums that we call surdo. Europeans like that, quite a lot.

“We feel really good when we can show other people our good music. We like to see people enjoy themselves.”
But how well do Kiwis acquit themselves on the dancefloor?

“Well, sometimes we laugh . . . But they are having fun and trying to dance – that’s really good.”

Samba combo Sugar Cane play at Revolver on Saturday from 9pm