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Joia to the World 

It's all fun and games for St. Louis' favorite Brazilian percussion ensemble

Given the group booked for the Sheldon Concert Hall's "Notes From Home" series next Tuesday, this showcase should be billed as "Beats from Home." Joia has some melody to offer, courtesy of a-go-go bells and occasional bursts of anything-goes group singing, but beats are the group's thing. Joia is a percussion ensemble with a base in Brazilian instruments and rhythms, though its members branch out as the mood suits them. A new CD, Ninth & Geyer, to be released at the Sheldon gig, finds its heart and beats in the sounds of Mardi Gras, taking its name from the street corner that hubs the Soulard version of Fat Tuesday.

Come to think of it, "Beats From Home" doesn't quite capture these folks, either -- "Beats From All Over" is more like it, considering their grab bag of influences and far-flung personal origins. Joia members hail from such places as Bakersfield, California; New York City; Hilo, Hawaii; Aleppo, Syria; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; scenic Peoria, Illinois -- and even good old St. Louis. What brings them together is the joy of banging on things in unison and in counterpoint, preferably while roaming around parades or on the margins of football games and footraces.

They also share a stubborn, old-fashioned and deeply likable instinct for having fun. You hear this in the throb and ruckus of their performances and can read it on the group's Web site,, where members identify themselves as things such as "Wild Woman who shakes the shaker" (Kathy Kniepmann), "Tattoo Lady, rub-a-dubber, Body Parts Decorator" (Michele Ries) and (all in emphatic caps) "SCREEM'N MIMI, GODDESS OF GANZA" (Mimi Hubert). Even the head honcho, Rick Kramer, as if embarrassed to have billed himself as "Musical Director," adds the subtitle "Person to Whom People Complain."

What's there to complain about? "HANDCUFFS AND A BROKEN BARRICADE BEGIN AN EXCITING HOT, MUGGY RACE OF 45,000. I THINK I FRACTURED MY LEFT GREAT TOE," writes Bradley Drury, a co-founder of the group who updates the Web site gig log, describing Joia's performance at the Komen Race for the Cure on June 22. But hey, the heat, the handcuffs (a misunderstanding with police that did not actually involve any arrests), the barricades and that poor toe were not bummers enough to keep his eyes off the prize: "THE RUNNERS ALWAYS LOVE US!" he added.

No one will have far to run inside the Sheldon on Tuesday, though if the members of Joia have their way, people will be bouncing off the walls along with all those beats (watch out for those steps, though -- great toes could be broken). Runner, dancer, shaker, rub-a-dubber or (not bloody likely) sitter-in-your-seat, you may love Joia. Certainly it's hard not to like the group if you're in the mood to beat out a rhythm or boogie while others do -- not that the "Notes From Home" show will just try to reproduce a street party indoors.

"There's a lot more to Joia than what gets shown on the street," says Kramer. "Outdoors, at parades and things, we are limited by what we can do because it's loud and we're usually walking. Our indoor show is when we get to do our real material."

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