History of Samba in Ireland

Samba music has been played in Ireland since about 1990.

The initial roots of samba in Ireland can be largely attributed to the
work of two individuals, Anthony (Cubby) Cuthbert and Colin Blakey.

‘Cubby’ had been working as a bus driver in London in the 1980s, when he
discovered the London School of Samba, which he quickly joined,
specialising on the surdo. On his return to Cork, Cubby decided that a
samba group would be just the thing for the capital of the south. The Cork
School of Samba and Percussion was born!

Around the same time Colin Blakey had become interested in samba
percussion after leaving The Waterboys in 1990, and settling in Drogheda.
This was mainly through the influence of some of his fellow Scots who play
in ‘Macumba’ (www.macumba.com), who, on Colin’s invitation, made several
visits to Drogheda to give workshops around this time. As artist in
residence at The Droichead Arts Centre, Colin began to use samba
percussion with some local young people, forming the Drogheda Samba Band,
which later renamed itself Ceol Batucada. Drummer and percussionist Noel
Bridgeman, who had been a colleague of Colin’s in The Waterboys also gave
some input and inspiration to the Drogheda scene at this time.

Contact was established with the Belfast Carnival Band also at this time,
which was using some elements of Samba in their percussion music.

Soon after that, Colin Blakey began a training course in community arts,
organised by a community arts organisation called CAFE. One of the workers
there, Simeon Smith, was impressed with the potential development
possibilities offered by samba and began to promote Colin’s work
enthusiastically, eventually accompanying members of CAFÉ and the City
Arts Centre to the inaugural Drogheda Samba Festival, organised by the
Droichead Arts Centre.

The exposure to samba was one of the factors that influenced the City Arts
Centre and Wet Paint Arts to organise a festival of world percussion in
Dublin called the Big Bang. This festival featured African, Brasilian and
Irish percussion, but excellent performances by the Drogheda Samba Band
and Macumba (Scotland) made samba the star of the show!

The City Arts Centre decided to create a weekly community samba class for
the staff there, with the initial sessions being facilitated by the
aforementioned Colin Blakey. Very soon, this group became so popular with
the staff and outsiders that it needed to become somewhat independent of
the centre and this group became maSamba Samba School.

Also around this time, Mel MacGiobuin of City Artsquad, had become
interested in the creative potential of samba, and used the mechanism of a
FAS CE scheme to create a fledgling samba band, which eventually became
Happy City Samba Band.

Most of the bands created after that have documented their own histories
elsewhere, and can be linked to from this site. Currently, there are about
15 samba and street percussion groups in Ireland, with more groups being
created all the time.