Some highlights from 2018…

End of 2018 blog

As we approach the end of another year, and with the benefit of a few day’s rest, it is fitting to look back at the year gone by.

It was definitely a year of ups and downs, which started very much on a downer. For the second time in three years, we had to vacate our rehearsal space. Our landlord, a well-known financial advisor, ex-board member and minor celebrity, let greed get the better of him, and decided to break our lease at the earliest opportunity. The main reason for moving into the Bow Lane West premises, was to gain security of tenure, and to develop an arts and community facility that would support the wider community, as well as ourselves, but it wasn’t to be – in this space at least.

Google keeps track of everything! A lot of people like the picture of our mural from Bow Lane West.

Ironically, we got two pieces of news regarding the property last week. The first was from Google to tell us that the photo on google maps of the front of our building had set a record number of views, as it featured the amazing mural we put on there with the skills and patience of artist Will St. Leger, who worked with members of the Masamba Youth Project to design and paint the mural. The second is that the space hasn’t be rented out to anyone else, so in his hurry to get us out, the financial genius cost himself at least €15,000 – oh well….

While the move cost us time and money, the other real negative was that we are now operating out of four different locations, just to keep the show on the road. This does require some extra time and a lot of planning. At first, it led to a drop-off in numbers at rehearsals, to the point where we even had to cancel a couple of rehearsals, for the first time in years. However, things are now starting to settle down, and becoming more normalised, and in the meantime, we are still on the lookout for a more suitable base of operations – maybe in 2019…..

Our newest recruit Graham Dunne continued his on the job training, and got to the point where he can lead a workshop by himself, if needs be. Graham has also been working away to develop some cavaquinho skills, and we are hoping to be in a position to offer basic cavaquinho workshops in the near future. It will be great to start work on the melodic side of samba, after all these years of just focusing on percussion.

We only really started to use our new van properly in early 2018, after a long search for affordable insurance, and again, it has really come into its own. The fact that we are operating out of four different buildings, in two different counties, would be impossible without the van. Also, we can now confidently quote for work right throughout the country, as we are no longer relying on third-party transport providers. In 2017, as well as working extensively in the Dublin area, we managed to visit Dundalk, Greystones, Carnew, Dunmore East, Cootehill, Monaghan Town, Clongowes Wood College, Limerick, Dunshaughlin, Trim, Ashbourne. The van also greatly facilitated our building move, although we still needed at least four runs in a box van, to get everything sorted – that’s the downside of gathering costumes, instruments, and huge amounts of admin over 20 years!

On the training front, we were delighted to host Serrinha Raiz and Chris Quade Couto for a three-day visit to Ireland in September. The first day was given over to some work with members of our youth project, with the remaining two days dedicated to working with adult samba drummers from all around the country. Chris and Serrinha bring a great balance of skills, knowledge, passion and fun to all of their workshops. We were delighted with the outcome of all the sessions, and feedback from all the participants was extremely positive. 

The other highlight of 2018, was our involvement in the Deep River Rock, ‘Thirst For Better’ campaign. This is a scheme whereby codes are printed on the labels of River Rock water bottles, and each time one is submitted beside our name, we get 20c. Doreen came into het own here, getting us loads of labels from the canteen in the GPO, and Ciara has been tireless on the social media front to promote our campaign. We can report, that at the end of 2018, we currently leading with just short of €400 raised. We will be using the funds raised through this campaign to purchase some new instruments, specifically for use with early years students. We are getting more and more requests to work with this age group, and we are currently working very hard to put together some new games and activities better suited to this age group. The addition of these instruments will assist us to get this process started.

Plans for 2019  

Already, we have at least 30 workshops booked in for January, as well as a couple of interesting gigs on the horizon, but this time of the year, also allows for some longer-term planning. Some of the plans we have for 2019 include:

Our first beginners course in two years, beginning at the end of January

The aforementioned workshops with early years students will begin in mid-January, so we are desperately gathering instruments, and working on workshop plans for that.

A small group of Masamba members travelling to Rio in February 2019, to do some research ahead of carnaval.

We will be hosting the Irish leg of the Bossas 2019 tour, which will see samba experts Mestre Maurao, Gabriel Lopes and JP Courtney delivering a weekend of workshop in Dublin

We are talking with the Brazilian community about organising a carnaval event for the children of Brazilians living in Dublin (and their friends).

Finally (for now), Masamba will celebrate our 25thyear in continuous operation in 2019. We have already kicked around a couple of ideas as to how we can celebrate this milestone, so keep an eye on the website, for further updates.


Masamba Community Services Programme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development and managed by Pobal.

The mural in Bow Lane West was part funded by a grant from the Dublin Bus Community Spirit Iniative, City of Dublin Youth Service Board and MRCB paints, as well as some of our own earnings.

The purchase of the van was grant aided under the Dormant Accounts Fund, managed by Pobal on behalf of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs. Horizon Digital Print provided the decals free of charge.

Chris and Serrinha’s visit was part funded by the Arts Council, Dublin City Council, and our own earnings.

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A Van-tastic Year

In November 2017, we took delivery of our first ever dedicated Masamba vehicle, in the form of a little Peugeot Expert. It was end of a long process of funding applications and after applying to several different agencies, it was the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs through the Dormant Accounts fund, that saw our need and granted the cash to get us on the road.

One year on, and our little van has changed our lives!

Even though we bought the van in November, it was January before we were fully able to utilise it, as we quickly found that Irish insurance companies have little interest in charities. We were quoted over €6000 to put the van on the road! Luckily, the guys at the Intersure brokerage in Drogheda hunted around and managed to get us a much more realistic price.

Since then, there has been no looking back! We were already in the process of moving out of our HQ in Bow Lane West, and the van was immediately in use every day, both supporting that process, and out doing the regular activities of workshops and gigs. In fact, the van was so busy, that it literally took us months to get it back into the dealership to get some of the non-standard features such as high-security locks and reversing sensors fitted.

Also, we must say a big thank-you to Jeff and the guys at Horizon Digital Print for creating amazing decals for us 100% free of charge.

Over the year, we have travelled to Dunmore East, Drogheda, Dundalk, Clones, Limerick, Newbridge, Ashbourne, Trim, Carnew, Greystones, Belfast, and to every nook and cranny of Dublin and its immediate surroundings. Not all of this work would have been possible without the van.

In addition, as we have yet to find premises that combines all of our activities, we are currently operating out of four different buildings, between North Strand (office), Mountjoy Square (rehearsals), the Liberties (Youth Project) and Skerries (storage) – without the van, it would be impossible to operate at the moment.

Thanks again to the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Horizon Digital Print and Mongey Plunkett Motors, for making a long-held dream a reality.

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Berlin, Candomblé and ufa FABRIK

Last weekend, I travelled back to Berlin to participate in a  three day course in Candomblé percussion with  my friend and mentor Dudu Tucci.

I was first introduced to Candomblé percussion back in 1999, but at the time, I didn’t have the technical playing skills to appreciate it. In addition, at that time, I felt that it was inappropriate to perform music from a religion that I had nothing to do with, or being more pragmatic: why learn how to play something that I would never be called on to perform in public?

Time moved on, and I came to learn that most of the secular rhythms we play in Masamba,  especially arrangements we learned from Dudu over the years, owed a debt to this for of music, and that developing a working knowledge of the music could be an invaluable tool in helping me understand the music better, and in composing new pieces.

As always, Dudu was an excellent host, and the course was pitched at a level that was challenging, but never so much so that I wasn’t motivated to keep going. We covered several toques from the Orixas, and got a little bit into playing technique too, so the course ticked all the boxes for me.

In previous years, a course like this would have taken place in Dudu’s legendary Percussion Arts Centre (PAC) in Kreuzberg, but as with so many other arts facilities, the entire block has been sold out from under them. Masamba has suffered a similar fate recently, and we know how difficult a move can be – emotionally, physically, and from a business perspective.

Dudu has relocated to a smaller facility called PAC NORD, but this course was delivered at the famous UFA FABRIK arts centre in the Tempelhof district of Berlin. Dudu has been working with the team here since the 1980s, and so I enjoyed a special level of access to the facility, and got to meet and chat with a number of staff members while I was there.

I had a long chat with UFA FABRIK veteran, and leader of local samba group Terra Brasilis, Manni Spaniol. He explained the history of how the facility was formed, and how it is run today. The current complex houses 3 indoor venues an outdoor performance area, workshop spaces for percussion and dance, a primary school, a petting zoo, children’s playground, a café/bar, a bakery, a whole foods store, and an accommodation block. In addition many of the workers at the centre live on site in a housing block. The programme is a mix of internally-devised programmes, most of which involve elements of the local community, and external touring shows, who just need a venue.

As well as my own studies, I stayed in the accommodation block, ate in the cafe, shopped in the whole food store, and attended a jazz gig on the Saturday night – all of which were delivered to a very professional level, and with a friendly and positive spirit – there is an infectious feeling of family throughout the complex that’s hard to resist!

So, the weekend ended up having double the expected benefits – I had a great weekend of drumming and learning, and I discovered an amazing arts facility, that definitely got me thinking about what the next Masamba facility might look like!

The trip to Berlin was supported by a grant from the Irish Recorded Music Organisation (IMRO) 


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Back to School

Over the last couple of weeks, social media was awash with photos of children in their uniforms, setting off for their first day in school. It is that time of year again, and for us at Masamba, it signals a change in focus too.

As the schools get settled in, we start to get calls about workshops. Some are from schools we have worked in for years, and in those cases, it can be a fairly straightforward process, of agreeing a date. We are also talking to some new schools, and in these cases, a lot more work has to be done to agree times, dates, locations, class sizes, etc. Every project is different, and every school needs a bespoke service – all part of the job.

















We at Masamba are going back to school too. This weekend, we welcome master drummers Serrinha Raiz and Chris Quade Couto to Dublin, to teach us old dogs a few new tricks. We will be joined by colleagues from several other bands from around Ireland, and we have a beautiful space to work in in the Clasac Centre, so the weekend should be educational, inspirational and FUN!



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Back in the Community

August is usually a pretty quiet month for us here at Masamba. Most of the educational institutions and youth projects we work with are shut for the month, or operating a reduced service. As many people are on holidays, there is also a reduction in festival activity, so August is usually a chance to take it easy, catch up with paperwork, and start getting set up for the new school year.

However, this month, we have had the opportunity to go back to our roots, and re-visit some of the communities we have worked in over the years.

We began the month with a trip back to the Liberties to play at a local event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the building of the houses in the Carmans Hall/Spitafields/Hanover Street/Ash Street area. It was a simple parade up and down the street for us, but there was a great sense of community, some great banter, and there was cake in abundance!! 

Back strutting our stuff around the streets of the Liberties, August 2018. Photo: Suzanne Behan Photography.

Last weekend, we revisited Naomh Fionbarra’s GAA club in Cabra, to participate in a local community parade there. Masamba has been involved in activities in this area for at least 15 years, starting with our involvement in the campaign to get a proper building for the Gaelscoil in the area. While it was great see that modern building built and in use, there is still plenty of work to do to make Cabra a better place to live and work. However, again, we found some really good community spirit and a great example of how the GAA does so much more than just organise sports in a local community.

Masamba strike a pose in Cabra. Two band members unfortunately brought the wrong costumes with them….

This coming Saturday (August 18th), we are joining the Festival of the Nations in Mountjoy Square. This is a new event for us, but it is right in keeping with celebrating the cultural diversity of Dublin City, and supporting the work of those that seek to break down the racism and discrimination that still exists in some quarters.

What’s also great about this event, is that it is very close to our new rehearsal space at Jigsaw in Belvedere Court. We always try to establish links with the local community wherever we rehearse or deliver workshops, so the Festival of the Nations will give us an opportunity to start that process.

We will be doing a short ‘Parade of the Nations’ around Mountjoy Square at 1pm, and there is lots more on offer with a full programme up until 6pm – and it’s all FREE!!

Finally, we also took some time out on Saturday in Cabra to do a little recording for a campaign, organised by Deep RiverRock, to support local community projects like ours. It may generate some income for the band, which would be very welcome indeed!





The campaign is called ‘Thirst For Better’ and will rely on members of the public redeeming codes found on bottles of Deep RiverRock water. There are further details about the project here:  Please support us if you can!

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June Statistics

We had a really busy, and a really good month of June. It was also a good balance between the community see of the work, and chances to perform at some quite high profile events.

We blogged lots of little bits and pieces to our Facebook page, as that facilitates the quick snappy blogs to describe a single activity. Here are links to some of them: 

VHI Women’s Mini Marathon:

Pre-announcement for workshop weekend with Chris Quade Couto and Serrinha Raiz:

Re-visiting schools we haven’t worked in for years:

Monaghan workshop for Camp Diversion:

Summary of Pride and Taste of Wicklow:

Video clip of Masamba Youth Project, assisted by members of the adult band, playing with Seo Linn at Taste of Wicklow:

Masamba at Dublin Pride featured on RTE News: 

These are all great snapshots of particular events, but they don’t capture the bigger picture, so here are a few statistics for the month as a whole:

No. of workshops delivered: 65 (more than 2 a day!)

No. of workshop participants: 718 (most of whom did an average of 3-4 workshops)

No. of Gigs: 4 (plus, we organised bands for 2 other entries for the Pride parade)

Estimated overall audience: 130, 900

Mileage Clocked up: 1158.6km.

Our next major outing is for the legendary Ballina Salmon Festival Mardi Gras parade on Saturday, July 14th, but in the meantime, we will be quietly working away behind the scenes, sorting out and fixing instruments, getting everyone paid, sorting costumes, etc. 


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Is June over yet??

As the end of June draws near, it’s worth looking back at what has been a fantastic month for Masamba. However, right now, there is too much in the immediate future to allow for that!

On Monday, we began a summer drumming camp with our old friends in Charlesland (Greystones). We have been working in this area for over a year, funded by Music Generation Wicklow, and have slowly developed a really great corps of skilled and enthusiastic drummers. This particular project will continue all week, leading towards a performance as part of the ‘Taste of Wicklow’ festival on Saturday evening.

Today, Tuesday, we started the day at a Family Day in George’s Hill Primary School, delivering an interactive performance with all of the students, and a few special guests on the drums. Afterwards, we were treated to an amazing multicultural buffet with food from China, Vietnam, Mongolia and India amongst the food on offer. Then, it was a quick race out to Charlesland for day 2 of the Summer Camp.

On Wednesday, we are making another journey to County Monaghan tomorrow evening to lead a workshop with 100 young people as part of a nationwide youth programme. So that’s south to Greystones (Charlesland), do a workshop, straight from there to Monaghan, and another workshop.

In addition to that, some of our drummers and dancers, and performing for Amazon tomorrow night, as they host a World Cup themed party – sounds like it could be a late one!!

On Thursday, we are back in Charlesland, and then racing back to Dublin for our own Masamba Youth Project rehearsals – the last one in St. James’s school for the summer. We hope to announce a great new location for the project in the next few weeks.

Friday, is kind of straightforward – the last rehearsal with our Charlesland gang ahead of their gig the following day.

Saturday, it gets crazy! During the day, we have a top team of drummers and dancers out performing at the Pride Parade in Dublin. This year, we are working with Mastercard under the banner ‘#acceptancematters’. We haven’t forgotten our friends in the INTO LGBT group or Nando’s, as we are organising drummers for them too. Plenty of logistics to be sorted for all that.

As soon as the Pride Parade is over, we are on the bus to Wicklow Town for the Taste of Wicklow event. This gig will be unusual in that it brings together students from the Music Generation Wicklow summer camp with members of Masamba and the Masamba Youth Project for a gala performance. In addition, we will be performing a couple of tunes with Seo Linn, a group famous for taking pop songs and creating Irish language lyrics for them. This will be a new challenge for us, but no doubt, we’ll rise to the challenge!

Even Sunday isn’t a day off for us this week: We will be heading over to Merrion Square, to perform and deliver workshops as part of the National Play Day celebrations. This project is funded by our friends in Dublin City Council, and if the weather stays as good as it has been, we are guaranteed from fun in the sun!

Finally, for this week, we will be heading over to Áras and Uachtárain as guests of the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins. The event is a special concert to celebrate all the organisations that the President acts as a patron of. We are hoping that we can help persuade him to go forward for another term in office, as we believe he has been doing an amazing job for Ireland, for the Arts in Ireland, and for those living in disadvantage in Ireland.

When all this is over, we will do a full review of the month – it’s been a rollercoaster ride, but fun all the way!!


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Increased Volume of Work



We have had a lot of requests for bookings, and general information over the last couple of weeks, and we must admit that we have been slow to get back to some of you.

However, in our defence, we have 25 workshops and rehearsals this week, which is about average for the last month, so we have had little ‘desk time’.

We are wading through the backlog, and will be back to everyone as soon as we can. Just bear with us!



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Cramming Time!

As many students will know, as the end of the year approaches, a bit of cramming is usually in order. Week, it’s the same in the Masamba camp over the next few weeks, we will have to go to school every day – a DIFFERENT school every day!

Here’s our week planner:


The plan for the week ahead – it looks busy!


In total, we will be working with over 400 people each week, but the good news for them, is that there is no end of year samba exam – or is there;-)

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Just Rewards!

We’ve been putting in a few long days over the last week or so, but, as is right and proper, we are being rewarded for it!
Last week we started work in a new school, the Holy Family School in Cootehill, Co. Cavan. It is a special needs school, and we are always delighted to be asked to work with anyone with disabilities, because music seems to be a popular choice with the participants. We enjoy it too, and we were given a great big Cavan (and Monaghan) welcome! We are working with six classes in the school, about 70 kids in all, and so far so good, we’re off to a flying start!
However, it is a very early start to be up there ready to go for 930am, but at least the mornings are bright, and we get to pass through some lovely countryside on the way. 
At the moment, between the Holy Family, our own Youth Project, St. James’s Primary School and our Music Generation Wicklow project in Greystones, we are delivering 17 workshops over Thursdays and Fridays, working with over 200 people in the process – it’s pretty tiring, but at least we enjoy the work!
All this effort has brought us some good fortune too. Yesterday, we learned that Fingal County Council are exempting our new storage facility in Skerries from rates, which is going to save us about €1700 a year. In addition, Geraldine O’Hara from the rates office there processed the request free of charge, as it is an interim short-term measure. We will have to apply properly in a couple of years, but for now we are delighted with the support.

This is how our van is going to look after the weekend, courtesy of Horizon Digital Print – very smart!


True to their word, Horizon made sure that the van turned out exactly as planned!

Also, this evening, we dropped our van out to Horizon Digital Print in Blanchardstown, who are doing some stickers for our van at a very special price. This is something we’ve wanted to get done since buying the van at the end of last year, and this is the only window we will have to do it over the next few weeks, so it’s all good!!
Small charities like us wouldn’t be able to operate with these supports, and we are ever grateful for them.
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