The Scottish Link Pipe Band (SLPB) came into being in July 1995, with five pipers and four drummers, at a musical festival held in the mountain resort of Campos do Jordão, state of São Paulo. The place and occasion had been carefully selected by Cristiano Bicudo to attract powerful sponsors that would ensure logistic support and the flow of more funds to the band in the following years. British Airways, Johnnie Walker Red Label and Cultura Inglesa were in their mighty sponsorship portfolio. This plan, as well as the training programme, proved both so successful that the band doubled its size in 1996 and it considered traveling to Scotland to compete.
In August 1997, the SLPB with a crew of fourteen players, made its debut at the grade 4 competition in Perth, and a week later at the World Championships on Glasgow Green, the very first time a South American band had competed at the Worlds. Even Drum-Major Ronaldo Artnic competed in Perth! Competition results were understandably not good, but the trip also included band workshops at the newly inaugurated Piping Centre, with piping instructors Roddy MacLeod, Angus MacDonald, Jim MacLean and Dougie Pincock. The drumming instructor was Ian Thompson (Power of Scotland). An assessment of the band’s work was also made by Joe Noble and Iain MacLellan. The workshops made all the difference. The sheer amount of information the band gathered and precious musical advice it got in that visit to Scotland was gigantic, and pretty much shaped its musical work for the next years. And apart from the serious stuff, there were also many moments of good humour. Cristiano recalls the way Angus MacDonald introduced him to Roddy MacLeod. "Angus, who knew me since the 1992 lessons at the College of Piping, and in 1999 gave me excellent advice for my P/M duties, said in his typical mood to Roddy “This is the gentleman who started a pipe band in the jungle in Brazil!”. Not too far from the truth…"
The band would return to Scotland two years later in 1999 for another round of Piping Centre workshops and competitions, this time doing much better and finishing 8th out of 26 bands in an amalgamated Grade 4 contest in Bridge of Allan. At the Worlds, the band placed 10th out of 36 bands in Grade 4b. The band also won the SPBA March and Discipline Shield at the Worlds that year, a sweet trophy for an overseas band that rendered a beer celebration at Glasgow’s Drum & Monkey Pub in St. Vincent Street, the pub owner being one of the supporters; so the bass drum carried its logo.
1999 was also the last year of the bands successful annual appearances at the Campos do Jordão music festival, mainly due to Diageo (Johnnie Walker) but sadly not supporting these presentations anymore. These Campos do Jordão presentations had been an important fund raiser for SLPB trips to Scotland, so no more appearances at the festival also meant that we would be absent from the competitions in Scotland for sometime, although Johnnie Walker still required our presentations occasionally, for the Brazilian Grand Prix and their whisky festivals…those were however much more commercial gigs with less budget and not the same musical environment that had boosted the band when it started in Campos.
If sponsorship was declining, on the other hand, musical production was flourishing. After returning from the Scotland tour in 1999, Cristiano began making pipe band arrangements for two well known Brazilian “baião” style songs originally composed by Luiz Gonzaga: “Asa Branca” and “Baião de Dois”. These would form a set that would be called“The Brazilian Set”. The inspiration for this came from successful attempts of creating contemporary bagpipe music that cannot be classified as marches, strathspeys, reel, jigs and slow airs etc, such as 78th’s hit “Journey to Skye” and FMM’s “Steam Train to Mallaig”. In Cristiano's words,"I wanted more or less the same rhythmic effect and climax, so while I borrowed some of the main parts of Gonzaga’s original compositions, some entirely new parts had to be composed to reach the desired effect. The final musical result with added harmonies and drums was great and the set naturally became our show stopper."
In 2000, in cooperation with the St Andrew Society of Rio de Janeiro, the SLPB played in the first South American Highland Games, held in Barra, Rio de Janeiro, and almost entirely funded by St Andrews Rio president James Frew. At the time, some guests from other South American countries, as well as another band with pipes turned up, the latter being the band of the Brazilian Marines, which used the pipes in a similar way as BMWA. "This was my first actual contact with them, although they were not exactly new to me as BMWA got instruction from Marine pipers at their start, both bands playing with technique borrowed from other conventional woodwind instruments due to lack of Highland bagpipe instructors in Brazil. "
The following years saw SLPB performing mostly for the British community events in both São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and getting involved in the formation of South America’s first pipe band association, SPBASA, in which Cristiano represented SLPB and the interests of the whole Brazilian branch of the same association, for no other Brazilian band was given membership. The SLPB was still Brazil’s first and only pipe band!
In 2002, Cristiano stepped down as P/M of the band to invite Norman MacDonald, a former member of Muirhead & Sons PB,who was working near SP, to take over as P/M. At the same time his brother Marcus (with the departure of our previous L/D Edinei Lima), took over the drum corps with Norman’s friend Gordon Craig offering drum instruction.
With Norman MacDonald as Pipe Major and Cristiano Bicudo as P/S, SLPB attended three South American gatherings in a row, in Uruguay, Argentina and Chile, and by 2007, the Scottish Link finally made it to Scotland and the Worlds. Results, however, were disappointing and the political situation of the band became unstable.
|The Scottish Link competing in Chile at the SA Championships|
In 2008, Cristiano reassumed as P/M and the challenge was to keep the band together.