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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Cycles and Connections

Masamba is now in it’s 23rd year of continuous operation.

Over that time, a lot of people have come and gone from the band, as is the nature of community music and life in general.

Some people disappear for ever, s0me people stay in touch, and some people mean to stay in touch, but drift away – again it’s the nature of the beast.

Recently though, we’ve been blessed to reconnect with several ex-members and colleagues, and it’s created a lot of interesting opportunities and a chance to remember the old days.

Last year, Hana Hall, came back into our orbit, as she wanted her children to experience some drumming for themselves. Initially, she was bringing them all the way from Greystones to rehearsals in Dublin each week, but that was untenable, so we started talking about getting something going in Wicklow. With the support of Music Generation Wicklow and the irrepressible Ann Catherine Nolan, we set up a project in Charlesland, just outside Greystones, and we are now into the 2nd year of it. Along with Hana’s kids, Martha and Noah, we have a great group of teenagers who are very musical, up for it, and great craic!

Also last year, Simeon travelled to the Isle of Skye to work with ex-Masamba member and workshop tutor Sarah Walker, on her now drumming project Mac-Loud! We’ve lost count of the number of bands we have helped to set up over the years, and even though Sarah is no longer part of Masamba, we feel we can claim a little bit of the credit for the great work she is doing in the wilds of Scotland!

Then, towards the end of last year, another ex-member Marion O’Toole got in touch about trying to get something off the ground with the local group in Carnew, also in County Wicklow. Again, Music Generation Wicklow provided some support, and Foróige invested in a set of instruments, and off we went, down to the very far end of Wicklow in the dark of the winter nights to teach a group there. Again, we found a lovely group of young people and a lot of talent. This group recently performed for their local St. Patrick’s Day parade and the feedback was very positive. We’re sure they will be able to build from this and set up a local resource for their community.

Posted by The Hub Carnew on Thursday, July 20, 2017

While we were moving building recently, ex-band member and current Board member, Ray Corcoran, weighed in on a couple of occasions to help pack and move gear. It’s great to see people re=appearing when their is some serious work to be done!

In recent weeks, Aoife Kavanagh, a band member from about 10 years ago suddenly got back in touch and asked about coming to rehearsals. Maybe it helps that we are now rehearsing on the Northside of Dublin, but in any case, it’s great to see her back in the fold,  and playing away.

Even tonight, at rehearsals, Jenni Egan appeared, all eager to get some playing done. Jenni is a music teacher who had to move the the UK to find a decent job, but in all fairness, every time she comes home, she gets involved in whatever band activities are happening – a kind of a remote member!

So, as the band gets older, and more members go through it, the network grows all the time. All we need now, is to find that an ex-member of the band is now a multi-millionaire property owner with a new building for us;-)


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Storm Emma and Masamba

For the last week, the media, and popular discussion has centred around one topic: Storm Emma and the mayhem that came with it.

For Masamba, it was ‘kind of’ business as usual, though the storm made it’s presence felt in many ways.

The main affect on us was, as I’m sure it was for most of you, the cancellation of most of our tuition work. Day by day, as the storm came nearer, one by one, all of our workshops and rehearsals had to be cancelled. This was for the best, and we are delighted to report that we all got through it unscathed, BUT it also meant zero financial income for the week. Coming off the back of a mid term break, it will present some financial challenges. I’m sure that this will be the same for most of our colleagues in the community music sector – only so many things can be rescheduled, and there will inevitably a loss of income for us all.

On the other hand, having just moved the office home, there was no excuse not to get cracking with all the admin. and fundraising work that has been mounting up. Personally, I have never experiences such a bottleneck of funding and reporting deadlines as I have in the period since Christmas. As well as several well-flagged funding deadlines, we have been informed that we have to ‘renew’ our Governance Code commitments (why?), there are a series of new responsibilities under the updated ‘Children First’ legislation, and the new General Data Protection Rules are also about to come into effect. These are all worthy enterprises, but why do they all have to come at once? Trying to keep a voluntary Board of Directors appraised of all these policies, procedures and responsibilities is a job in itself, let alone the hard yards of reading up and attending training sessions on it all. After all this, is there time to go out and do the actual work?

So ‘Storm Emma’ was a storm in the real sense, but has also fed into a kind of administrative storm – unfortunately, the admin. storm will take longer to clear than melting snow!

However, as the real snow starts to clear, we are looking forward to getting back out into the world, and working with real people again – even Emma!


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New Rehearsal Location

In recent weeks, and largely behind the scenes, Masamba has moved.

To say that it has been a difficult process would be an understatement. We all know that rental rates in Dublin have shot up again in recent months, and landlords are not interested in doing deals with community organisations who cannot pay these rates.  In addition, we can confirm that there are lots of landlords sitting on properties who don’t want to rent them out, for whatever reason. That is their business, but posting spurious ads on, etc. didn’t make our job any easier.

In addition, trying to relocate without a big budget meant that many things were done voluntarily by band members and friends, and to negotiate deals on everything else just takes time.

On the positive side, we have made a few really good contacts through this process, and in particular, we would like to thanks Sparky and his team of lads from Poppintree Youth Service, and John and Keith from Cachimbo, who lent us a hand, even though our plight didn’t directly affect them. 

We were also able to donate a lot of stuff we didn’t need to other deserving organisations so, for example, a local secondary school took some spare lockers we had, a youth club gained some useful bits and pieces, and some of our furniture is going to the NCBI. Even our plants have been relocated to the the Jigsaw space. I think it’s fair to say that we did everything we could to avoid wastage, and to leave almost noting in the old space.

Tonight, Wednesday, we had our first rehearsal in Jigsaw, just off Mountjoy Square. This is a community-based facility, and though smaller than we are used to, it will do us just fine for the moment – it was just great to be playing drums again!!


In all, this if the fifth major move Masamba has made in it’s 22 year history, and no doubt it won’t be our last – it just seems to get tougher every time!


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Moving Onwards (and Upwards?)

It’s been a long, but rewarding week here at Masamba.
We are still moving stuff out of the Bow Lane premises in storage, and despite some obstacles, we’re getting there. We just did a deal on another big shed last night that will house the rest of the gear, so now all we need is the time and people-power to get all the stuff moved – it seems sad and ironic mothballing tons of Carnaval instruments and costumes, just as Carnaval begins around world, but there ya go! It has to be said that our new van came at the right time, although right now we could do with something bigger – a LOT bigger!

Starting the process of relocating Masamba’s vast stock of instruments and costumes into storage – 03/02/2018

Otherwise, it has almost been business as usual. We had a great rehearsal on Monday, ahead of our gig in the Sugar Club tonight It will be a reduced version of the band, so that we can fit on stage, but we have some nice Carnaval rhythms from around Brasil ready to go, and in tandem with the Tropicalia movie and a raft of Latin DJs, it should be a cracker of a night.

Carnavalia Graphic

On Wednesday, we were joined by no less than 5 new people at rehearsals, and got through a full set list of pieces. We only hope that these ‘newbies’ can make the transition with us to our new rehearsal space at Jigsaw. We will be publishing full details of that when time permits.

Simeon gets a makeover ahead of the Sugar Club gig, courtesy of a member of our Youth Project

Last night, we had our youth group in and, numbers were down because of all the confusion of the move. Fair play to them, they asked if they could try to lead a piece by themselves. This is something we have been working towards for a while, and it was not only great that they suggested it themselves, but also they did a great job  – maybe now they’ll appreciate how difficult it is for us;-)
Also, yesterday, we managed to help out a local school. Some of our youth group attend CBS James’s Street, and while we were talking about the move, they suggested that the school might take some of the spare lockers we had in the rehearsal space. Well, yesterday we managed to do a few van run up to them and deliver around 20 lockers that they can use for students to keep books, etc. in. It is very much in the ethos of Masamba as a community-based group to both help other similar organisations, and to reduce waste, by re-using materials where possible – win-win for everyone!
Today, we are back in St. James’s Primary School for a day of classes there, we have a meeting with the City of Dublin Youth Service Board this afternoon, and then off to the Sugar Club, where the weekend, and CARNAVAL begins!! (I wonder if we can get away with taking 5 days off???)
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Great To Be ‘Back to School’.

As the first full working week after Christmas winds down, we can report that it is great to be back to work in MasambaLand!

Things are always a little slow to re-energise after the festive season, but this week we managed to hold three rehearsals deliver a whole day of workshops, and we’re sending a team to Waterford tonight to perform at a wedding.

Next, week, out new project in Carnew, Co. Wicklow kicks off, we are starting back in Marino College, and we may also be resuming our work with an excellent group of young people in Greystones. It’s a good thing we caught up on some sleep over the holidays!!

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Van-tastic End to the Year!

For a number of years, Masamba has been caught in a bind. We need to increase revenue in order to realise all of our plans of working in the community and also operating a successful samba performance group. However, with only 2 full-time staff, it was hard to see how we could physically deliver much more work, and maintain a high standard of quality.

We identified 2 things that would help us move to the next level – more staff and a dedicated Masamba vehicle – this year, we managed to achieve both of them, and we’re delighted.

Graham Dunne – Photo Colm Keating.







Back in September, we hired a 2nd music tutor in the form of Graham Dunne. Graham comes to us with a wealth of expertise in many areas of the music industry, but his speciality is playing stringed instruments. So, one of Graham’s first tasks with us will be to develop a programme of Cavaquinho training, starting in the Springtime, The cavaquinhos are on their way, and we can’t wait to get started!

If you want to find out more about Graham’s musical career to date, there is a full biog. on our Meet the Tutors page.

The second thing we wanted to do was buy a van, and we can now confirm that as of Thursday, the new MasambaMobile is on the road! We’ve felt for some time that having access to a larger vehicle would open up new opportunities for us. It will allow us to take on more work, and it will allow us to take on work in areas of the country that are less accessible. We have always tried to take on workshops, regardless of how far off the beaten track the are, and we genuinely have worked in almost every corner of the country, but every so often, there is a location that is too inaccessible or too expensive to get to. Hopefully, that’s all a thing of the past.

Here is is – the new Masamba van – all we need now are some funky stickers, and we’re good to go!

The purchase of the van was facilitated by a grant from the Dormant Accounts Fund, and our friends in Mongey Plunkett Motors gave us a great deal on a lovely Peugeot Expert. The next challenge was finding affordable insurance, and luckily for us, one brokerage called Intersure kept hammering away at it, and got us all insured for less than a third of the price we were initially quoted – result!

Of course, the big task for the beginning of 2018, is to find a location to re-locate the Masamba HQ, but at least we have more hands on deck, and a van to facilitate that task!



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Breaking the Silence

Those of you who know Masamba will knows that when we go quiet on social media, it’s usually because we are super-busy behind the scenes.

That’s why we aren’t posted anything here in several weeks, as there has been lots happening in the Masamba camp.

First for the bad news: We are being made homeless at the end of this month. Our landlord has decided to take the first opportunity to get out of our lease, and therefore, we have been on the hunt for a new rehearsal and storage space, to keep the Masamba machine going. Obviously, the property market in Dublin is crazy right now, and despite a lot of work, nothing has yet emerged as an option. Hopefully, we’ll be writing to you with a change of address very soon!

On a more positive note, we have been out looking for a new van, as we were lucky enough to get a grant from the Dormant Accounts Fund earlier this year, specifically to put the first ever dedicated Masamba vehicle on the road. We’re very excited about this, as it will increase the range of where we can work, and should also allow us to take on more work.

It is also the season for funding applications, and we have applied for funding to set up a couple of new, and interesting, projects that will be open to anyone to join – more about that, when we hear back from the funding agencies!

Finally, Simeon is just back from the famous Isle of Skye  over the weekend where he supported ex-Masamba member Sarah Walker in her work to bring samba to the West of Scotland!! MacLoud are a great bunch of people with a lot of passion for rhythm!

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Masamba – The Learning Hub

It’s such a shame that we will have to vacate our current rehearsal space and HQ in November, as we are finally getting to the point where it is becoming a learning hub for world music, as well as a base for Masamba’s many activities.
This Thursday (September 14th), we are hosting an introductory African Drumming and Dance session hosted by Shiv Ross. This will develop into a short course running for the next few Tuesdays at the space.

Also, on Thursday, we are starting back with our own Masamba Youth Project with a group of very dedicated local young drummers. They have been off for the last few weeks on their Summer holidays, but we have gigs coming up, so we need to get practicing!

On Saturday, we are hosting a special workshop in association with Maracatu Ilha Brilhante on the art of Xequeré playing. This workshop will be led by Raquel Cruces Ortego (Tambor Bacana & TaQuirikita, Spain), and all the details are on their facebook event page here.

Next Thursday, our own Beginners and Improvers Autumn series kicks off and we have a mixture of traditional and new material lined up for this six week course. All the details are on the flyer below.

So, the Autumn will be a feast of learning and fun, down at the old Masamba HQ!!

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