Returning to the workplace – how Masamba can help.

I was watching the news last night, and the topic of workers returning to ‘the office’ came up. Some HR consultants and experts on work practices believe that many workers will be hesitant about returning to the ‘normal’ ways of working, and may need some persuasion to make the transition from home working.

An additional factor is that many companies will have hired in new staff during the pandemic, so as well as bringing existing teams back together, there will be the challenge of introducing new team members to their colleagues.

Well folks, samba drumming is the perfect corporate teambuilding activity to break the ice and (re)introduce staff groups to each other. Masamba have delivered teambuilding workshops with some of Ireland’s biggest companies. We have worked with teams as small as six, and can accommodate up to 200 people in a single session – that is every participant with an authentic, professional level, Brazilian percussion instrument in their hands – no toys, no sharing.

Sessions are non-hierarchical, hands on, and fun. Collective music making also encourages the creative processes of the brain, so can act as a great precursor to planning sessions and think-ins. Alternatively, an hour playing the drums with your colleagues can be the perfect preparation for a social event such as a meal or drinks reception.

Best of all, corporates can rest assured that their financial outlay will go to support Masamba’s charitable work with young people in Dublin’s inner city, so it really is a win-win situation.

Getting down to business at a Masamba Workshop!
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0-60!!!

There has been a sudden injection of energy into our work over the last few weeks. This is mainly as a result of the lifting of COVID-19 restriction, making all sorts of activities possible again.

We’ve had something of a baptism of fire over the last two weekends, delivering 28 mini shows as part of the Celebrate Fingal event. These events were organised as part of the Local Live Performance Programming Scheme, which was created to generate work for those in the live music and entertainments industries in order to help them survive the pandemic closures.  It is ironic that our own local authority, Dublin City Council, failed to support our proposals, despite us working extensively with them over the last year, but our friends in Fingal County Council had other ideas…

While we were delighted with the opportunities to perform and to meet audiences again, it was a gruelling schedule of short shows, and getting children involved. The two weekends were definitely a workout, but also great preparation for getting back to our regular schedule of workshops, parades and stage shows.

Audience participation was the order of the day at Celebrate Fingal.

We can report that we are in discussions with several schools about drumming projects, and also planning a very special show for Hallowe’en 2021, with some of our partners in the Brazilian community. We’ve even had a firm query for St. Patrick’s Day 2022, which is very positive news!

Best of all, we are planning to get back to regular rehearsals from next week from our new base in the Liberties. We are also looking forward to getting back to delivering free workshops for children through the Masamba Youth Project. No doubt, it will take weeks, or even months to get back to normal, but it is exciting to get started and get drumming!

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Back to basics!

After a long, and sometimes boring layoff from rehearsals, we are delighted to announce that regular rehearsals will resume at a new venue from Wednesday, September 22nd @ 7pm.

The location is the school hall in St. James’s Primary School, Basin Lane, Dublin 8 – it is between the Guinness StoreHouse and St. James’s hospital, so easily accessible by bus and Luas on St. James Street, and is a ten minute walk from Heuston Station. Free parking for about 15 cars on site. 
We don’t have a kitchen, as yet, but we can set up a tea/coffee station, and a few biccies to get us started.
 
No previous experience necessary. All instruments provided.
 
First session back is free of charge and the venue is here on google maps: https://goo.gl/maps/nFtCq6bGE8jJ6TZA8
 
 
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Maculêlê for a cloudy day

We had a great time today, teaming up with Allesandra Azavedo and Mestre Tatu for an outdoor workshop in Mountjoy Square. Allesandra and Tatu have been delivering workshop in the open on Mountjoy Square for the last couple of months, in an initiative funded by Dublin City Council and organised by 5 Lamps Arts Festival.

Not only was it great to be out and about playing in the inner city, but it had been a long time since we’d played for dancers. It is a whole other discipline that required consistency and concentration, so in a way, it was a workout for us too.

The atmosphere was positive, and the dancers appreciative of our efforts. It was also nice to re-connect with the small, but active Brazilian cultural community in Dublin. After more than 25 years flying the flag in Ireland for the vibrant culture of Brazil, it’s great to see that reinforcements have arrived!

 

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Summer Drumming for Young People with Masamba!

We at Masamba Samba School are organising a week-long Summer Camp in St. James’s Primary School, starting on Monday 5th July and running for 5 days.

We will be providing 2 sessions each day, 11am – 1pm and 2pm – 4pm, and will work with no more than 10 children in each group. Children will have to remain in the same group – i.e. complete 5 mornings, or 5 afternoons, no swapping between sessions.

 

We will have the facility to work outside, and all sessions will follow the government’s COVID-19 guidance. Hand sanitizer and PPE will be provided as well as a light snack each day.

The week costs €10 for the five sessions, payable on day 1. You can pay by cash, cheque or paypal to info@masamba.com.

As spaces are limited, we suggest you book in advance, either by calling Simeon at 087-2363813 or emailing info@masamba.com.

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COVID CLOUDS CLEARING

Almost every day, we are hearing more positive news about vaccinations and the gradual re-opening of Irish society.

While the live music industry has been left in limbo, we are at least seeing some test events planned, which hopefully will signpost the way back to indoor concerts and large festivals – it can’t come soon enough!

Masamba has been back teaching in schools since mid-October 2020, though we had another enforced break in January and February of this year. We worked hard, and invested money into developing a safe way of working in schools, but other than our friends in St. James’s Primary School, most schools have been very reticent about inviting external tutors onto their premises. That is starting to change, and over the last few weeks, we have been back in another regular haunt – Scoil Iosagain in Crumlin. We have also delivered a short series of teacher-training sessions in Loreto College, also in Crumlin.

Suddenly, though, we’ve seen some last minute action as schools organise once-off drumming days, instead of traditional school tours. We will actually be in schools every day next week, working with St. Laurence’s, Baldoyle, Donore National School, in Co. Louth and the aforementioned Scoil Iosagain. Of course, everything dies off for the summer months, but it is heartening to see schools opening up again and we hope that it points to a busy Autumn season!

While there will no festivals this summer, Dublin City Council have put out a call for local outdoor performances, and we hope to pick up a couple of localised shows around the city. It will also offer us the opportunity to collaborate with some other bands and dancers, which is always fun!

Finally, we hope to be able to resume regular adult band rehearsals and sessions with the Masamba Youth Project in the near future. We have been made homeless in recent weeks, but we have a plan for a new rehearsal venue in the Liberties, and from there it will be onwards and upwards.

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Positive end to 2020

 2020 has been a difficult year for us all – especially those of us working in the Arts. The COVID-19 restrictions have made life very difficult for the last nine months, and we can only hope that the New Year brings some respite.

However, it’s not all bad news, and at the very end of the year, things are looking up for us at Masamba.

During the week, we had two piece of positive news, both of which will help us trade our way back to sustainability.

We have just been informed that the Arts Council, under the Arts Participation – Capacity Building Support Scheme – 2020 have awarded us €14,426.00. Though great news, it is a little less than we applied for, so we will need to decide carefully what we spend the money on. It will definitely upgrade our office capacities, and hopefully, stretch to getting a makeover for the Masamba website.

Also, we had applied to both strands of the RTE Does Comic Relief fund, namely the ‘Demand for Digital’ stream, for which we were awarded €2779.73, and the ‘Adapt and Respond’ scheme for which we have been awarded €2913.28.

The materials and projects we had applied for under all three schemes will dovetail together nicely, to support us to generate some online learning resources, and overhaul our website to make it more marketing orientated, which will hopefully generate more business.

Also, we should give a shout out to Dublin City Council, and the North East Inner City, who booked us for some performance work, between Hallowe’en and the ‘Concert on your Doorstep’ projects. Not only was the cash very welcome, but working for Dublin City Council also ensured that the events were well-run and followed the safety guidelines. It was also a tonic to get out and do some playing in the community, as it remained us of why we all got involved in samba in the first place.

So, 2020 was a tough year, but not all bad. Roll on 2021! 

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Catching up (but not catching) COVID-19

8 months ago, just before St. Patrick’s Day, the first restrictions resulting from COVID-19 were announced, effectively shutting down Masamba, along with most of the arts and entertainment industries. We have had a stop-start existence then (mainly stopped), but regardless of the restrictions, we have continued working to the best of our abilities. Here are the latest updates.  

 

Some of our younger students in St. James’s Primary School, happy to work in their pods.

A few weeks back, we recommenced work in St. James’s Primary School, delivering 8 sessions each day with children aged between 5 and 13 years of age. The school is following the guidelines on keeping children in small pods, with no interaction between pods, and strict hygiene for both tutors and instruments. We have successfully negotiated a way of delivering percussion sessions in these circumstances. It is a compromise, but everyone is happy to be back playing music and having fun.

Who are those masked drummers? Masamba playing at the Royal Canal Greenway, Oct. 2020

We are also starting a project with Loreto College, Crumlin, whereby we will deliver workshops with their music staff, so that they can deliver percussion classes to their students. Music staff in the school have chosen percussion, as it is a safer methodology than, for example, choral work. This is potentially great news for us. Loreto College has a long, and proud history of music-making, and we are sure we can work with them to deliver a top-quality drumming option in the school.

Living the Dream! Working on yet another funding proposal

It’s not all plain sailing…

Even with these exciting projects, Masamba is operating severely under capacity at the moment. We will need to increase the amount of workshops and performances we do to remain financially viable. Our government has made serious efforts to support industries that have been damaged by their policies in reaction to COVID-19. So far, none of them have been suitable to our needs. We’d rather trade our way out our current troubles, but if we are prevented from working, then funding will be necessary to keep the good ship Masamba on the high seas.

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This week we began the process of returning to rehearsals and workshops in a safe environment. When the initial COVID-19 restrictions came into being just before St. Patrick’s Day, we were frustrated to be losing out on one of the busiest times of year for us. Back then, none of us could know that six months later, we would still be in a position where there are no gigs and no workshops, and no clear picture of when things will get back to normal.

That’s not to say that Masamba has been inactive in all that time. We had a huge backlog of administration and policy work to get through. One positive outcome that we could take the time to catch up with this important work. We also took the opportunity to carry out the most extensive process of instrument maintenance we’ve done in manys a year.

It was important to stay busy, but it was staying busy carrying out work that doesn’t generate any income. Despite continued funding under the Community Services Programme, we still need to be earning something to survive.

Also, as time went on, we realised that we were missing out on the human interactions of working and playing with a diverse selection of wonderful people. Admin, policy and maintenance work is all energy out, but we get NO ENERGY BACK!

Positive Developments

This week, things are finally starting to move again. We have figured out a way to make rehearsals work in the short term, with a lot of co-operation from Barry at Jigsaw. Likewise, we had a walk-though in the DCC Sports Centre on Marrowbone Lane this morning. Following this, we are confident we can safely deliver sessions with our youth project, although numbers will have to remain limited for the moment.

We have also been in contact with some of our ‘regular’ schools, and it we’ve negotiated a safe way back into schools work. Through a mixture of working in outdoor spaces, working in classrooms with a revised set of instruments, and of course, regular sanitising of instruments we can deliver drumming workshops in most settings. 

There is still a long journey ahead before we get back to ‘normal’. I put ‘normal’ in inverted commas, because I believe that what we will end up with is a blend between what we used to do, and some of the current ‘new’ ways of working. Most importantly, we will be back working with, and for, real people in real communities. That has to be a good thing!

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COVID Capers 2

As our economy starts to re-open, and some of us are getting back to work, news is mixed for us at Masamba Samba School.

On the positive side, it looks like the schools will be re-opening in September, which might mean that we can get back to our many teaching projects. It was disappointing that the lockdown was called when we were facing into a really busy time with workshops, but hopefully, we can pick up where we left off.

Performances are another matter. It is hard to see howdy public shows will be allowed for the remainder of 2020. This is not only disappointing because we enjoy the opportunity to perform live, but it will also have a financial impact, and make life very difficult.

On the plus side, we have had a couple of positive results on the funding front:

  1. We have been awarded a Business Continuity Voucher from the Dublin City Local Enterprise Office, to the value of €2,500. This voucher will facilitate us to work with a marketing consultant to design a promotional strategy, which will hopefully accelerate our re-entry into the ‘marketplace’ – i.e. get us some extra teaching work in.
  2. We were also successful in getting the maximum grant of  €500 from the Civic Theatre Artist Emergency Relief Fund. It may not be a huge amount of money, but anything that assists cashflow is vitally important at this time.

There has been an impetus to simply ‘Bunker down’ until the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, as this would be a way of saving money. We don’t agree. We have remained busy throughout the lockdown, as has been detailed in earlier posts to this site. Since our last blog, we have completed the following:

The drafting and adoption of a Music Tutor’s Code of Practice, which confirms our commitment to providing a quality learning environment in all that we do. This in turn has brought out other aspects of policy that need to be updated. We are planning to carry out a complete overhaul of our organisational handbook, which currently weighs in at 124 pages, before the end of July – fun times ahead;-)

On the policy front, we are also developing a ‘Return to Work Safely Protocol’, which is a statutory requirement for all companies, and which should be completed in advance of any direct teaching or performance work taking place. We have received some training on this, through our association with a network of community services managers, but as the government guidelines are changing rapidly at the moment, it remains unclear what the final document should look like. Hopefully, there will be some definitive information for our sector soon.

We’re delighted to have received this framed top, from our good friend Ken Dawson who passed away in 2013. Ken joined Masamba when he moved to Ireland from Canada, and quickly became a dedicated member, and contributed greatly to the craic! 
We were devastated when Ken was taken from us, and this project has been on our agenda for some time. Many thanks to Micheal Breathnach at the Oat Gallery in Ballinasloe for taking on the work – as they like to say across the water, GOOD JOB!!!!

There are some more details on Ken’s time at Masamba here: http://www.masamba.com/uncategorized/ken-dawson-r-i-p/

Also, we had some stickers made for tagging instruments and also possibly to hand out to kids in workshops. Lots of work to finalise details with the printers, but now that they’ve been done once, it will be easy to repeat them.

We have also been forging ahead with our project to put our new customised drum skins onto our instruments, and also to complete the final drum wraps. Both Contemporanea and Horizon Digital Print have put in some sterling work in creating these  items for us, so we owe it to them to show them off to all in sundry. 

Initial Feedback to Connor Rousseau’s video about Masamba’s work in the community, entitled ‘A Child’s Heart Sings to the Beat of a Drum’ has been extremely positive, and we are hoping to spread the word, and maybe get it attached to a few websites and maybe even a TV broadcast. The documentary can be found on YouTube here: https://youtu.be/B4QQbGwhjas 

Masamba’s continued operations are only possible with the generous support of the Community Services Programme, an initiative of the Department of Rural and Community Affairs.
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