The repinique or repique is a tenor sized drum played in the samba style with a stick and one hand. 12″ drums are standard though both 10″ and larger variations exist, including much bigger models up to 16″ being popular in Brazil at the moment. With obvious west african ‘hand & stick’ ancestors including the sabor, the origins of the modern repinique style are closely linked to those of the third surdo. Simultaneously driving the beat and articulating the samba’s ‘swing,’ both surdo terceiro and repinique call for solid timing, sensitivity and creativity in equal measure.

In the samba reggae groups of Bahia the exact same drum is known as a repique, most often played en-masse with two long nylon beaters  – which creates a very different tone and identity. For many years repiques and surdos have made up the majority of drums in many populuar Bahian afro-blocos such as Olodum and Musenza. The repiques dominate the upper-range of the sound, supplying variations and interacting with the surdos to define a rhythm’s character.

Repinique playing can be an expressive form, combining the essence of hand and stick drumming. Traditionally, co-ordinated repinique calls and styled improvisations are performed with flair and individuality, with virtuoso performances sometimes reaching jazz-drumming levels of obscure complexity and jaw-dropping skill. Perhaps as a reaction to these long, wild solos and occasional drum battles, current trends are towards impressive show-pieces for a highly co-ordinated group of players. Either way, the bateria still often takes it’s swing, and many musical cues, from the call of a lead repinique player.

Bruno do Repique of Mocidade samba school playing repinique with Unidos de Londres, Gunabara London 2009
Bruno do Repique of Mocidade samba school with Unidos de Londres, London 2009

It might look complex in the hands of an experienced drummer playing improvisations, but the repinique also plays a much simpler yet important role in the samba groove – linking the sound and rhythms of the caixa, tamborim and chocalho with the bass pulse of the surdo section. A new player doesn’t need to be the person starting the entire band on day one, but their instrument gives a lifetime of room for growth.

Sam Alexander playing repinique with b-loco, 2005
Sam Alexander plays repinique with b-loco, 2005

Find out more about learning or playing repinique with the Unidos em Ritmo samba band here