CASA SAMBA: Home To Afro-Brazilian Traditions in New Orleans

Photo by CASA SAMBA 

New Orleans, with its vibrant culture and passion for music, is home of a cultural center space dedicated to combining traditional music, vocals, theater, dance and drumming to capture the spirit of Carnival in Brazil, Afro-Brazilian traditions and history. C.A.S.A. SAMBA (Cosmopolitan Amigo Samba Association) was founded in 1987 by Curtis Pierre, Bill Lennon, Chuck and Carolyn Barber. Casa Samba's vision is to train children and adults in New Orleans and throughout the Gulf South into aspiring practitioners of Brazilian traditional music, dance and cultural arts.

In a 1993 Proclamation, Mayor Sidney Barthelemy recognized Casa Samba as the first Samba School based in New Orleans. Mr. Curtis Pierre, Casa Samba’s Director, specializes in Brazilian percussion and capoeira. He is well known as one of the three best Malabaristas (pandeiro jugglers) in the U.S.

Curtis Pierre first learned about Brazilian percussion in the early 1980s and developed a long association and friendship with percussionists such as Bill Summers, Munyungo Jackson, Ron Powell and renowned Brazilian drummer/ percussionist Airto Moreira. Airto has always been the "SPARK" that inspired Mr. Pierre and heightened his percussion career in Brazilian folk music. In the past twenty-five years he has studied and played with various Samba groups, African dance companies, percussion ensembles, reggae and pop music groups. He has also appeared in video and movie spots and performed solo.

In the past twenty years Mr. Pierre has studied Samba School percussion at several Escolas de Samba in Rio De Janeiro, including Portela, Vila Isabel, Estação Primeira de Mangueira, Salgueiro, Mocidade Independente de Padre Miguel, Viradouro, and ILE AIYE (1988), the first established afro-bloco Samba group in Bahia.

Mr. Pierre studied and trained Capoeira Angola, an Afro-Brazilian martial art form, with Mestres João Pequeno, João Grande, Jurandir, Jogo de Dentro,  Morias,  Angolinha, Bira, and Contra-Mestre Valmir. He is currently studying with Mestre Cobrinha Mansa from Bahia, who has played a superior role in the development of Capoeira Angola in the United States. 

Famous for his “malabarismo” (pandeiro juggling), Mr. Pierre studied the technique with Ron Powell and Mestre de Malabarismo (pandeiro juggler) Edgar Aguiar of OBA OBA, from Rio de Janeiro.  He has also studied with Carlinhos “Pandeiro De Ouro.”

Often studying and learning new techniques for his performances, Curtis Pierre has dedicated some time to collaborate and study with Master Drummer Jorge Alabe, (Bateria director for OBA OBA).  Jorge Alabe grew up immersed in Candomblé and in the rich Brazilian musical culture. He is an "alabê" at one of the oldest Candomblé religious houses in Brazil - Casa Branca. The title of "alabê" means that he has obtained the highest level in drumming and master of ceremony in the Candomblé religion. This name is rarely bestowed on drummers unless they have been initiated, mastered and have years of experience in Candomblé rituals. 

To learn more about CASA Samba and his director, Mr. Curtis Pierre, please visit the website: or

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