We become better aquainted with Ygor Saunier, the drummer from the Gen Rosso Band. He is 34 years old, comes from the Amazon and is married to a fellow singer, Karine Aguiar. His love for percussion blossomed at a very young age.
At their home in Maués, in the middle of the Brazilian Amazon, Ygor Saunier’s mother jealously guards a photo of him when he was just three years old, trying to carry a drum that was bigger than him. Music, especially percussion music has always been a part of his life. Now he is the drummer of the Gen Rosso Band. He is thirty-four years old, but grew up in Maués which is a day’s journey by ship from the capital city of Manaus. “I remember that when I was nine, the parish priest of my city, Mario Pasqualotto – now a bishop – gave me a keyboard to learn how to play so that I could play at Mass. But I was more interested in the sound effects of the percussion that were recorded on the keyboard!”
Ygor says that the first time he sat in front of a drum was at the age of thirteen and that imitative sound of that boom-boom-boom-boom summarized the fact that every gesture came naturally to him, as if he instinctively knew how to get the rhythm out of that instrument. Quite right. “Then, at 17, I attended the Gen School in my country. A beautiful spiritual and also musical experience. There, at that Gen School, where the drums were always available, I understood what I would do in life: I would study music at university!” His mother, who was not exactly in agreement with that plan, proposed that he study Computer Science, because of the job opportunities that would be open to him. He didn’t rebel and agreed to try it out for a year. But when the news arrived that the State University had accepted his request for enrollment in the School of Music, everything became clearer. Not easier but clearer. “The dream was to graduate and, after the Master’s, to do a Doctorate and teach at the university level, in order to give more security and stability to my life.” Thus, Ygor joined the studio and the life of a professional musician. “Living on art in Brazil is hard,” he explains. “You need to have a lot of faith, it is like a priesthood if you want to do it well, if you want to live on art . . . You have to stick to your commitment 24 hours a day, with a lot of travelling and commitments. Thus, for a period I moved away from the Focolare family.” Meanwhile, participating in a competition for the university orchestra, he met Karine Aguiar, a fellow singer with whom he fell in love and married a few years later. “We’ve been married for ten years now!” he proudly boasts.
In June 2019 with the upcoming Master’s Degree in Music at the University of Sao Paulo his dreams seemed on the verge of coming true. Only that an unexpected phone call from Loppiano, in Italy, upset his plans. “It was Gen Rosso who was offering me to go on tour! Gen Rosso was part of my musical training. I’ve always been a fan. So, I put aside my plans and university career and accepted their offer!”
Ygor arrived in Loppiano in September 2019, participated in the Italian tour and then the tour in Indonesia. “I saw this invitation as a true gift from God in my life,” he says “because it also represented a certain return to Focolare family that I have always been a part of, even though my career as a professional musician had somehow distanced me. However, as we already know, our life is nothing without Jesus Forsaken and, when the pandemic arrived, it prevented me from being with my wife Karine who was supposed to arrive in Loppiano last May but, due to the worsening of the pandemic in Italy and Brazil that was delayed.”
Ygor and Karine use all the means that technology offers to stay in daily contact, despite the literally oceanic distance that separates them. “My brothers from Gen Rosso lived through this situation with me. I’ve always tried to offer this experience in favor of the difficulties experienced by many people around the world, especially for the most fragile populations of my country. Streaming with Gen Rosso was a great opportunity to fulfill this desire, to be closer to people and to bring a message of hope. In addition to being a drummer at Gen Rosso I also work with editing some of our videos for the Internet, and I remember many times having finished some after 2 am, because we needed to go on air the next day in our intense streaming program during lockdown.”
While Ygor continues to trust that God has his best plans in store for them too, Gen Rosso suggests that he extend his experience for another year and, this time, with the possibility of having his wife with him. “Thus, in the midst of so many difficulties involved in moving at the time of the pandemic, Karine managed to arrive last October 12th, and here in Loppiano we are experiencing a true ‘Heaven on earth’. The experience with each member of Gen Rosso is an incomparable, incredible enrichment and we feel that our home here has also become an extension of the home of each of the guys, and this makes us very happy. May this unity built between us spill over to many other people in the world, and may this Jesus in our midst allow other families to experience this Paradise, just as we are living it.”
But this paradise does not make them mindless of the problems of their Amazon homeland and everyone’s land. “I was in Italy for just two weeks when I held my first workshop with 22 students between the ages of 10 and 16 from two different schools in the southern town of Venosa. I had noticed the great use of plastic water bottles – a real waste! So, with Helanio Brito, one of the singers from Gen Rosso, we used the bottles to make percussions instruments. The lesson began with a number – 450 – and the kids eventually had to find out what that meant. At the end of the workshop we revealed that it takes 450 years for nature to decompose a plastic bottle. In a school in Piacenza, after our lab, they even asked the principal to put a fountain in the school in place of the plastic water bottle dispenser”.
Ygor, to conclude, how would you summarize your two years with Gen Rosso?
“Working with Gen Rosso has been one of the best experiences I ever had in my life. I have been a professional musician for 15 years and I have worked with many artists in Brazil, but for me Gen Rosso goes far beyond mere work because we have a different message to give to people, a message of peace, love and reciprocity. This is precisely what most fascinates me. It is very gratifying for me to use my music, my art, that is, what I have chosen to do in my life as a profession, to encourage changes in people’s lives. I would like to stress that this has always been my banner as an artist: to use my art as an instrument for making this world a little better to live in and to make people happier. Seeing that this is the central point of Gen Rosso it puts me fully in tune with them and makes me happy, because I realize that I’m in the right band, surrounded by amazing people who want to live for the same purpose.”