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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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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