The Argentine final of Red Bull Tum Tum Pa! saw desktop drummers bringing the heat, but only one beat could really convince the judge’s feet.

Humans have been banging things together ever since prehistoric man held informal jam sessions around the campfire. This is exactly the kind of tapping and slapping that Tum Tum Pa! celebrates.

Five teams of pen and paper percussionists gathered at the University of Buenos Aires to try and beat their way into the world final of Red Bull Tum Tum Pa! in Rio de Janeiro. Each band was armed with desks, the contents of their pencil case, a notepad, microphones and a few cans of Red Bull.

The challenge was to reproduce a well-known song before moving onto an original composition. The performances were then judged by Eduardo Schmidt, lead singer of Arbol, Leticia Manfil, studio percussionist for U2 and Sebastian Menoyo, bass player with Saimons.

Despite the huge opportunity at stake I found Facundo Guerrero of El Lucho y la Super Banda chilling backstage.

“I’m not feeling nervous, the atmosphere is great and I just want to get on stage and enjoy it. If we win and get that trip to Brazil, then things are going to get crazy.”

The first group to take the stage was The Perillo Experience and the judges were particularly impressed by Juan Manes’ innovation. Manes, who lists John ‘Bonzo’ Bonham among his influences, revealed a trick up his sleeve during the original composition when he rhythmically flapped a pair of paper wings attached to his wrists.

With the standard set high early on in the competition the next band to perform, Colombia, failed to make the grade. Eduardo Schmidt, who had agreed to coach the eventual winners and travel with them to Brazil, delighted in dealing out some Simon Cowell-style abuse to the four Colombian contestants.

While the Colombian’s ears burned, El Lucho y la Super Banda were invited up to the stage. A rousing rendition of Michael Jackson’s They Don’t Really Care About Us was backed up with more high-energy beats that got the auditorium out of their seats.

The third group of the night were rightly rewarded by the judging panel and put themselves in pole position with only two competitors left to perform.

Next up, Los Desconocidos beat out a pitch perfect cover version of Los Fabulosos Cadillacs’ Matador. A solid original composition followed and all of a sudden there was a different set of names on those tickets to Brazil.

The last band of the night, the Vegetarian Batu Band, would need to pull out something special if they were going to knock Los Desconocidos off top spot. What followed were brilliant back-to-back displays led by virtuoso Fernando Gualini. For the opening tune, Fernando produced the evening’s first wind instrument, a hollowed out marker pen, and to close the show he kept rhythm by ripping pages out of a textbook. All the while, Fernando’s band mates, Sebastian Chap and Matias Santana, reinforced the beat.

Eduardo Schmidt was taken aback by the creativity of the last collective on stage and convinced the other judges to crown the trio of dreadlocked vegetarians as champions.

“What those guys were doing out there, that’s the kind of free thinking and innovation we are going to need if we want to win in Brazil.”

The night closed with Eduardo joining the Vegetarian Batu Band on stage and giving the audience a taste of an entirely fresh sound that will be coming to Rio in June.

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