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:
- Performances – all cancelled until further notice
- Workshops – all schools and youth clubs are closed until further notice
- Band Subs – as rehearsals are off, there are no subs coming in.
- 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?