Tocá Rufar is an artistic and cultural education project that aims to assert and promote the Bombo (traditional Portuguese bass drum) and traditional Portuguese percussion. The project excels in placing art, learning and Portuguese culture in a privileged position as a source of value, development and contemporaneity, and by making it accessible to all.
Tocá Rufar’s mission is to promote the Bombo as a symbol of modern Portuguese culture and identity and to develop its practice in an orchestral context that concentrates on a contemporary expression of traditional Portuguese percussion, alongside providing exemplary educational practices within an instructive framework.
By creating and innovating from within the heart of traditional culture and employing high quality artistic practices, we intend to develop and export the image of a modern, agile, active, creative and innovative Portugal with a strong cultural identity. This is in addition to having a preeminent organizational model that can be applied by other national and foreign bodies.
Considering the contemporary cultural scene in Portugal, projects such as Tocá Rufar are essentially initiatives of sociocultural intervention and consequently provide alternative cultural models and practices to those offered by an entertainment industry that does not require the personal and social development of individuals and groups. Therefore, we participate in sociocultural projects that work towards the development of civil society, in particular the sectors that are most at risk and in need of attention.
The contribution and creativity of Tocá Rufar as a leader of distinction in the area of social work is summed up well by Rui Júnior, founder and director of the project, when in discussion with a local representative of education: “When our members enrol in the Tocá Rufar Orchestra, they take on the responsibility of representing the culture and identity of an entire country; due to its visibility, this initiative provokes a sense of duty. As a result, we demand hours of hard work and have strict rules on conduct, appearance and posture. Our members are artists and, above all, demanding and deserving human beings and – I guarantee you – they will know how to make important decisions and take on responsibilities, today and in the future, and do everything for their country. Therefore, sir, you need to give them the respect and admiration that they deserve. Any person that joins the orchestra, whether they are a child, teenager, adult, male or female, is considered and treated by Tocá Rufar as a talented individual.”
Under the motto “Lend yourself! Express yourself! Exceed yourself!”, Tocá Rufar gives its students a new and improved self-perception while also requiring them to find a balance between their personal will and the common good thus enabling them to affirm an individual identity within the community.
Performing social work through art provides them with the refuge of traditional culture while also extending their horizons and showing them a promising future within their reach and bestowing upon them the freedom to set their own limits. Besides proving the “tools” to achieve this, Tocá Rufar also demands effort, enthusiasm and the spirit of sacrifice, teaching its students in the process to be independent and take charge of their own lives.
Defining itself as an artistic and cultural project, Tocá Rufar protects its members from any social prejudice linked to their background, age, gender, race, culture or sexual orientation. Tocá Rufar is investing in the creation of platform that gives everyone equal opportunities to access the project and grow within it and within society.
By teaching in a group, Tocá Rufar brings together individuals whose social realities normally do not coincide or interact, however, once integrated into the orchestra everyone acquires equal status. Like members of a family, one common space is shared by people of different generations, cultures, life experiences, education, social status and identities. It is a space where everyone is understood and judged only on their input, goodwill and personal merit.
Orchestra members have the opportunity to access places and contexts that the majority of people do not. These have included: playing alongside renowned artists such as Buraka Som Sistema, Fafá de Belém, Fausto, Jorge Palma, José Mário Branco, Mickael Carreira, Paulo de Carvalho, Rui Júnior & oÓquesomtem?, Tony Carreira, Xutos & Pontapés, to name just a few; representing Portugal at international events including several World Expos (Expo’98 Lisbon; Expo Hannover 2002 Germany; Expo Aichi 2006 Japan), the Signing of the Treaty of Lisbon and several Festivals in the UK and in Belgium; and travelling the world and meeting people from various backgrounds. This not only plays an integral part in personal development but also provides a greater capacity for understanding and acceptance.
As well as having a direct effect upon its students, the project also influences those that engage with the group. Tocá Rufar’s shows and the manner in which its members behave and present themselves publicly inspires thousands of spectators, not just because of the high standard of music but also due to the integrity, education, generosity and kindness that they exude. Tocá Rufar members set an example, they challenge and nourish the spirit and are an important stimulus for community solidarity and service.
More than 80% of the orchestra’s performances are made available to promoters that do not have the resources to afford the costs of hiring, provided that the principals and underlying causes are considered fair and of value. So that the sustainability of the project is not put at risk, Tocá Rufar charges a higher rate to those that can afford to pay it and, indirectly, places upon the richest in society a social, educational and cultural role that quite often they refuse to assume.
Every year Tocá Rufar teaches around 500 students for free.