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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‘A Young Heart Sings to the Beat of a Drum’

Masamba Samba School releases documentary video about their music projects in disadvantaged communities.

While the performance side of Masamba is loud, colourful and well-documented, the organisation’s work in the community is less well known.

“We deliver over 400 music workshops each year, mainly with children in disadvantaged communities…” says Masamba’s Manager, Simeon Smith ‘…but due to child protection and GDPR issues, we rarely have an opportunity to document this work.’

Towards the end of 2019, Masamba teamed up with long-time collaborators Champlain College, to host  film student Connor Rousseau. Connor engaged in the project of documenting Masamba’s work enthusiastically, visiting every aspect of the group’s work, and shooting many hours of video footage.

This week, the first product of this partnership is being released. Entitled ‘A Young Heart Sings to the Beat of a Drum’, this short documentary details Masamba’s work in the community, with a specific focus on one of their long-term projects with St. James’s Primary School, in Basin View, Dublin 8.

‘A Young Heart Sings to the Beat of a Drum’ is a sensitive and thought-provoking insight into an innovative music project, taking place in the shadow of the famous Guinness Storehouse.

The video can be viewed onYouTube here: https://youtu.be/k9w71hKzF3A

 

 

 

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COVID CAPERS

Despite the fact that all of our performances and workshops have been cancelled, we still have plenty to do here in the Masamba camp.

Graham and Greg have been working away generating some new workshop materials. Music files, videos, photos and PDFs have been flying back and forth, along with the usual amount of banter, and we should have some great new elements for our teaching projects, once the current restrictions have been lifted.

We also managed to hold a Board meeting using Zoom, which was a new experience for most of us. As well as catching up, and taking care of the regular business, we used the meeting to adopt a new Vulnerable Adults Safeguarding Policy, which is something we’ve aspired to for several months. As our work in the community sector comes under ever greater scrutiny, policies such as this one, along with Child Protection and Health & Safety policies will soon be essential to being acceptable to funders and to take on government contracts.

One other important piece of work was organising our monthly payments run. We are pleased to report that, despite the current financial difficulties created by having no income to speak of, we have paid all of our artists up to date for services rendered. It is a very difficult time for performance artists at the moment, and most of us have almost no work on the horizon. Therefore, we felt it is very important to make sure that we paid anyone with invoices in with us as a priority. Likewise, we must express our thanks to our clients, most of whom have paid promptly, and given us the cashflow achieve this task.

Away from the desk, and despite travel restrictions, we’ve managed to get some physical work done as well. Ironically, no sooner had the COVID 19 restrictions been implemented, than lots of things arrived at the office by courier!

Firstly, a new professional quality marquee arrived from Poptents. Our thinking in getting the marquee made, is that we are often tasked with playing outdoor shows out in the wilds, with no shelter. Having our own marquee allows us to take on these gigs with a little more comfort. We had placed an order for this several weeks before the pandemic hit, but as we were getting it customised with our logos, it took a little time to prepare. Unfortunately, it will take at least two people to set it up, so until we are out of isolation, we can’t show you any photos.

Likewise, we had ordered some new swimsuits to reinvigorate some of our dancers’ costumes. Like most things ordered from the U.S. they took literally weeks to arrive, and arrived after the COVID 19 shutdown, so we’ll have to wait a little longer to see them in action.

As many of you will know, we at Masamba Samba School have had a long and extremely positive relationship with the Contemporanea instrument factory in Sao Paulo. Roberto Guariglia and his team of master builders have done so much for us over the years that we would need an entirely new website just to list it all. We love Contemporanea drums, and use them for both our performance work (because they sound amazing) and education work (because they are as tough as nails!).

Our most recent project with Contemporanea was to design some customised drum heads that would incorporate our special 25th anniversary logo. Perfectionists as always, Contemporanea’s staff sent several different ideas over for us to approve, and finally in February, we settled on a design that incorporated elements of the Irish and Brazilian flags along with our logo. As well as designing and producing these amazing drum skins free of charge, Roberto even paid for the shipping – now, that’s support!

Frustratingly, they sat in the van for a couple of weeks, before we realised that our rehearsal space is within the 2K travel limit, and so we could at least start to get them onto the gigging drums. This was such a satisfying project, because at the end there were some clear visible results. As you’ll see from the photos, the drums now look amazing, especially when teamed up with the wraps we had made by our friends in Horizon Digital Print.

So, despite the restrictions, we have been able to get some work done. Community Arts has always been about innovation and ingenuity, so in that way, COVID 19 is just another challenge to be surmounted.

STAY SAFE EVERYONE!

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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Masamba Samba School COVID 19 Update

Like many in the Arts community, the COVID 19 closures and cancellations have hit us hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Usually, the St. Patrick’s Day period is one of intense activity for us, and a real chance to earn some valuable funds. This year that was all cancelled quite late in the day, and as the closures were island-wide, there were no opportunities to find other gigs.

Masamba relies on funding from 4 sources to keep the doors open, and the projects running:

  1. Performances – all cancelled until further notice
  2. Workshops – all schools and youth clubs are closed until further notice
  3. Band Subs – as rehearsals are off, there are no subs coming in.
  4. Grants – Most of our grants are project-related. As most of our activities are on hold at the moment, we can neither spend grant funding on running costs, or apply for new funding until we know more about the true timescale of the COVID 19 related closures.

One huge positive is that we have been in contact with our core funders, the Community Services Programme (an initiative of the Department of Rural and Community Development, and managed by Pobal). Pobal staff have assured us that our funding from them is safe for the immediate to mid-term, which is a huge relief all around.

We are aware that many of our colleagues in the music business have absolutely no sources of income at the moment, and nothing in the diary for a long time to come, so we realise how lucky we are to have some support from the government for the foreseeable future.

Masamba’s Finance Sub Committee met last week, and worked out a strategy to minimise outgoings, and a programme of internal projects that will keep us active for the next few weeks at least. All of these projects are essential, and some of them had been long-fingered previously, due to the pressures of workshops and gigs. It is a rare opportunity to get some of these jobs done, and they will all stand to us when things come back to normal.

Some of the projects we are working on right now include:

Creating staff notation for all our workshop pieces, which we can share as a resource to teachers and youth workers in the future. We are looking at combining the notation with other workshop resources we have generated to make a ‘Masamba Workshop Manual’. This may even have wider applications than with the groups we work directly with, and we may have some big news in the near future about this project.

Generating a Vulnerable Adults Policy for Masamba. This is something we have wanted to do for quite a while. In addition, it is something that will probably be a required element of our overall governance and policy in a couple of years, so it is timely that we are getting to do some work on that at the moment.

We have been working with our great supporters and friends at Contemporanea Instrumentos Musicais in Sao Paulo to design some new custom drum skins for our drums. Completely by coincidence, we had recently finalised designs, and some colourful new drum heads, celebrating our 25th Anniversary. These drum skins are literally on their way from Brasil as I write. Once they arrive, it will take some time to put them onto the drums, and again, having the luxury of some quiet times, will allow us get that organised.

We are also in the process in developing the designs for a new form of hand drum, that will lend itself to use in a workshop environment with children. There is nothing radically new about the designs. It is more about taking the best elements of several different instruments and combining them into a practical, hardwearing instrument that will still sound as good as all the instruments made by our friends at Contemporanea. We firmly believe that educational instruments should not be ‘toys’ or cheap, poor-sounding imitations of the real thing. How can a student be motivated to learn to play well, if the sound they are producing is horrible?

We had also recently placed an order to get a custom professional-quality marquee produced to keep the rain off us at some of our outdoor gigs. This has been designed and made, but as yet, is still sitting in its packaging in the back of the van. We hope to get the opportunity to get it out and set up soon, so that we can photograph it and use it to get some new gigs booked in. In the meantime, we might have to organise a Masamba Barbecue to test out the marquee, as soon as the restrictions are lifted.

Also, on the image side of things, we have been working with our friends in Horizon Digital Print to get some new stickers printed that we can use to identify our instruments, storage boxes, etc. Jeff and his crew at Horizon always look after us, and we’re looking forward to seeing some results real soon.

Our Storage Facility, or ‘The Crypts’ as we like to call it, are always in need of tidying up and reorganising. Between the preparations for St. Patrick’s Day, and the fact that we were delivering workshops to over 600 children per week in early March, the Crypts need some TLC. As well as a general tidy up and reorganisation, we are using this opportunity to identify instruments that need repairs, and getting all that sorted as well.

The next few weeks will be difficult for Masamba Samba School. We hope and pray that this virus leaves us and our families unscathed, and that we can get back to some form of normality as soon as possible. In the meantime, we will stay busy, and try to maintain a positive outlook – sure, what else would ya be doing?

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