Ken Dawson, R.I.P.

We were very upset to learn of the passing of our friend and colleague Ken Dawson.

Ken played with MaSamba during the time he spent in Ireland in 2005/2006, and was a valued team member, always positive and smiling and genuinely one of the nicest people you could have the pleasure of meeting.

Ken has been ill for some time, and MaSamba members have been recollecting their memories of Ken over the last few weeks. Some of the stories include Ken having to ask band members to explain the concept of buying rounds in a bar to him, and then enthusiastically trying the concept out for himself, delighted that he had cracked an element of Irish culture.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2006, one of the coldest and most miserable days ever, Ken cut his hand badly playing surdo (bass drum) in the main parade in Dublin. He got back to base, with a drum covered in blood, but didn’t hesitate to volunteer to play another parade in Bray, to cover the fact that some of our visiting drummers had abandoned their responsibility because of the weather!

There is also the time Ken had a couple of drinks too many and serenaded the entire bus with Frank Sinatra songs all the way home!

Ken really wanted to learn about Irish culture and to ‘fit in’, but not at the expense of always been a proud Canadian. In Ireland, we often mix up American and Canadian accents, but Ken would always quietly make sure that anyone who assumed he was American learned the truth! Ken was always keen to explain any query we had about life in Canada. He also introduced the band to maple cookies and other Canadian treats as part of his ‘promote Canada’ campaign!

When I visited Toronto in 2010, Ken was on hand to give lots of advice, and help me connect with most of the key samba bands and key players. What was amazing, was that Ken had only just moved to Toronto himself, so he really must have put some work into finding out all this information, but never alluded to the fact – typical of Ken.

On that trip he was the best of hosts, and we sat up late into the night at my hotel, catching up on news from both sides of the Ocean – a lovely time.

Luckily for us, Ken made a special effort to visit us last year, as part of a trip to Europe to attend a conference. During the (very short) visit, we managed to have some food together, have a couple of drinks together, and most importantly, play some samba together. By this time, we knew that Ken had been very unwell, but he played it down, and was in really great form, treating us yet again with Maple Cookies and all sorts of Canadian goodies!

It is impossible to sum up someone of Ken’s immense character in just a few words, but if I had to I would include caring, sensitive, gentle, cheerful, generous, talented, strong, proud and despite all this – humble. Ken has changed all our lives for the better, and we only hope that he is now in a better place.

‘Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam’

Simeon Smith, 18th February 2013.


About Simeon

Masamba Samba School is Ireland's premier Afro-Brasilian music and dance group.
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