As we approach the end of the year, and indeed the decade, it’s only natural to take a look back over the previous 12 months, in order to celebrate the positives and hopefully learn from some of the negatives. Every year, it is the same – we assume that it has been a somewhat uneventful year, until we start going through the website and the diary, and suddenly realise how busy we have been.
Definitely one of the highlights of the year was the celebration of our 25thAnniversary at the Mansion House. Initially, we had very humble plans for the celebrations, but when we learned that we had been invited to the Mansion House by the lord Mayor of Dublin, Paul McAuliffe, we decided to invest a little time and money into the event. We were delighted with the turn out on the day, and it was a chance to catch up with some old friends, and ex-members of the group, as well as a party for the current crew!
We were honoured to be joined by the Lord Mayor himself, and the Brazilian Ambassador to Ireland Eliane Zugaib. Also in attendance were several Dublin City Councillors, past and present, and the Arts Office for Dublin City, Ray Yeates, and representatives of several other partners and stakeholders.
Dudu Tucci Workshops
In tandem with the event in the Mansion House, we invited our most influential drumming mentor, Dudu Tucci, to visit Dublin and deliver two percussion workshops. Dudu, originally from Sao Paulo, but based in Berlin for many years, has been working with members of Masamba since 1996, and has visited Dublin many times to work with us. Dudu has been a great supporter of our work.
The idea of the workshops was to invite our ex-members to re-connect with us, through playing together and learning together – two of Masamba’s core aims. The dates for the workshops were dictated by the date given to us by the Lord Mayor’s office, so it didn’t suit everyone, but we were still impressed with the turnout. We also got to cover an impressive amount of material with some people who hadn’t played in years!
One very positive suggestion that came from these sessions was the idea of hosting a ‘low impact’ workshop for ex-members once a month, who would like to keep connected, but who don’t have the time to commit to weekly rehearsals. This is something that we would definitely like to follow up on next year.
In April, we hosted Mestre Maurao and Gabriel Lopes, as part of the Bossas 2019 tour This was a collaboration with the UK-based company JP Percussion, and saw Masamba taking care of all the logistics and some of the promotion for the project. The 2-day workshop was attended by over 40 percussionists, mostly from around Dublin. As well as members of our adult band, 2 of the more advanced members of our Youth Project attended the sessions and gave a very good account of themselves.
More details of the Bossas Tour 2019 can be found here: http://www.masamba.com/uncategorized/bloody-brilliant-bossas/
Marcos Feijao Workshops
Marcos Feijao is an ex member of the famed Monobloco group from Rio, and is an accomplished drum set player, as well as a samba percussionist. Members of Masamba did some workshops with him in Rio back in 2017, and were very impressed. Feijao came to Dublin, immediately after our 25th Birthday celebrations. Coming as it did, so soon after our 25th Birthday celebrations, attendance was poor, and we barely broke even on the weekend. However, we did gain the basis of two new pieces of music, one of which is being rehearsed by the band at the moment.
In February, three members of Masamba visited Rio de Janeiro for two weeks, to witness the preparations for carnaval 2019. Most of this trip was spent at workshops or attending the open rehearsals of the most famous samba schools, where there is a great opportunity to see musicians in action up close. The trip was highly successful, and some of the material we saw being rehearsed has been incorporated into the Masamba set.
We also used the time to meet with Consul General in Sao Paulo, and the new Irish Ambassador to Brasil Sean Hoy, at a reception in Rio de Janeiro. At these meetings, we discussed the possibility of enhanced partnerships between Masamba and Brasilian samba schools, and the possibility of a collaborative project in the future.
All the dirty, sweaty details of our Brasil trip 2019 can be found here: http://www.masamba.com/brasil/brazil-adventures-2019/
Expansion of Board of Directors
In 2019, we welcomed two new members to our Board of Directors:
Sarah Bermingham is a fundraiser with the ISPCC, and a keen music fan who rehearses and performs with the Masamba Community Band.
Simon Edmondson is a web designer, and art therapist, who is also a member of Masamba.
Both new Board members act as band representatives on the Board, as well as bringing their own areas of expertise to the table.
Details of all our Board Members can be found on our website at: http://www.masamba.com/about-us/the-board/
Early Years Samba
In recent years, we have increasingly being asked to work with junior and senior infants classes in schools, and we became aware that our regular workshop materials were not quite suitable for these younger age groups.
To deliver a better service for these younger ‘customers’, we decided to take a three-pronged approach:
- Engage in training to work specifically with this age group – we have been lucky enough in this regard, in that the four Dublin local authorities have teamed up, to investigate and resource this work, under the banner ‘Exploring and Thinking‘. We have been involved in some excellent training and discussion groups under this initiative, and it has allowed us to clarify our thinking about what might work with Early Years musicians, and generated some really good contacts that we can rely on for information and support.
(ii) Develop a curriculum, specifically targeted at young learners. This is a process of taking elements of the training, combining them with elements of the workshops we already deliver, and creating all new percussion-based activities that Early Years learners can both interact with and enjoy. Our current aim is to develop 8 week blocks of activities for both junior and senior infants groups, and we are currently about 50% though this process.
(iii) Build a bank of instruments that we can use to deliver sessions with Early Years learners. Masamba has always had a policy of only using professional-level instruments for our workshops, and through our partnerships with several instrument companies, especially Contemporanea Instrumenton Musicais and the provision of funding through agencies such as the Arts Council/Music Network Instrument Capital Scheme, we have been fortunate enough to build up a great stock of workshop instruments which we can use with both children and adults. However, some of these instruments are not suitable for use by very young children, some had to have a re-think. We have identified a selection of instruments that young children can hold, grip, play and enjoy! To fill this gap, we engaged with the Deep Riverrock ‘Thirst for Better’ campaign, and managed to raise a very impressive €600, which we can use to invest in these much-needed resources.More details can be found at: http://www.masamba.com/communityoutreach/retail-therapy/
Unfortunately, 2019 saw little progress in our search for premises, despite making many enquiries, and connections.
Now in our 2ndfull year of being ‘homeless’, we are learning about the difficulties and extra costs of operating out of four different spaces, one of which is in another county.
Membership numbers have failed to recover fully, which is the result of a complex set of factors, and our current location is definitely one of them.
Our ability to host visiting tutors and performing groups has been complicated by the need to source spaces to host workshops, etc. It has also added a significant cost to organizing projects.
Our Youth Project numbers are down to record lows, and we attribute this to being forced to move rehearsal space twice in two years. We are currently working in a DCC Sports Centre on Marrowbone Lane. It is a good facility, but the acoustics are bad, and we have no on-site storage space for instruments, which makes rehearsals more complicated, and also limits musically what we can work on at any given time.
Our current storage space in Skerries is absolutely full to capacity, with nowhere to gather instruments and costumes for large projects. We have nowhere to build or repair instruments. Space is so tight, that we sometimes have to prepare for events in the yard outside the building, if weather allows.
Overall, 2019 was a great year for Masamba, and as well as the highlights above, the year was full of laughs, social events, great gigs, great workshop groups, and a lot of great music!
Already, there are some exciting new opportunities on the horizon for 2020 and beyond, and if we can keep the current great team of people together, and maybe even add to it, we’ll be in good shape for whatever comes our way.
Happy New Year to all our friends, colleagues, suppliers and
fellow sambistas everywhere!