Cyro Baptista (December 23, 1950) is a Brazilian percussionist born in Sao Paulo. Baptista creates many of the instruments he plays.
In the 1980s, Cyro moved to New York to study music. He then started working with John Zorn. In the ’90s, he appeared on albums by Marisa Monte, Holly Cole, and Cassandra Wilson. In 1997 he released his first solo album, Vira Loucos, with cover versions of music by Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos. The album was recorded with Marc Ribot and Nana Vasconcelos, another Brazilian percussionist (deceased in 2016), and released by Avant, a label owned by Zorn. He was also a member of Zorn’s band Dreamers.
He recorded with pianist Herbie Hancock on his album Possibilities. He recorded and performed worldwide with Hancock’s Grammy award-winning Gershwin’s World. He toured with Yo-Yo Ma‘s Brazil Project and appeared on the Obrigado Brazil, which won two Grammy awards. He collaborated with Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for a Brazilian Carnival modern jazz concert. For over two years, he toured with Paul Simon and appeared on his Concert in Central Park album. He has toured worldwide with Sting.
Baptista has also worked with Trey Anastasio, Laurie Anderson, Badi Assad, Derek Bailey, Gato Barbieri, Daniel Barenboim, Kathleen Battle, David Byrne, Dr. John, Brian Eno, Melissa Etheridge, Stephen Kent, Ivan Lins, Bobby McFerrin, Medeski Martin & Wood, Milton Nascimento, Robert Palmer, Carlos Santana, Tim Sparks, Spyro Gyra, James Taylor, Michael Tilson Thomas, and Caetano Veloso
Baptista formed Beat the Donkey, a percussion and dance ensemble. The name comes from a Portuguese expression for “let’s do it” or “let’s go”. The band’s personnel and genre are in flux. Sometimes it includes Ribot and Zorn. The music can be rock, funk, Brazilian, or Balkan.
His quartet, Banquet of Spirits, is released by Zorn’s label, Tzadik. Below is a sample of their delightful, lively music: