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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New Rehearsal Location

In recent weeks, and largely behind the scenes, Masamba has moved.

To say that it has been a difficult process would be an understatement. We all know that rental rates in Dublin have shot up again in recent months, and landlords are not interested in doing deals with community organisations who cannot pay these rates.  In addition, we can confirm that there are lots of landlords sitting on properties who don’t want to rent them out, for whatever reason. That is their business, but posting spurious ads on, etc. didn’t make our job any easier.

In addition, trying to relocate without a big budget meant that many things were done voluntarily by band members and friends, and to negotiate deals on everything else just takes time.

On the positive side, we have made a few really good contacts through this process, and in particular, we would like to thanks Sparky and his team of lads from Poppintree Youth Service, and John and Keith from Cachimbo, who lent us a hand, even though our plight didn’t directly affect them. 

We were also able to donate a lot of stuff we didn’t need to other deserving organisations so, for example, a local secondary school took some spare lockers we had, a youth club gained some useful bits and pieces, and some of our furniture is going to the NCBI. Even our plants have been relocated to the the Jigsaw space. I think it’s fair to say that we did everything we could to avoid wastage, and to leave almost noting in the old space.

Tonight, Wednesday, we had our first rehearsal in Jigsaw, just off Mountjoy Square. This is a community-based facility, and though smaller than we are used to, it will do us just fine for the moment – it was just great to be playing drums again!!


In all, this if the fifth major move Masamba has made in it’s 22 year history, and no doubt it won’t be our last – it just seems to get tougher every time!


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Moving Onwards (and Upwards?)

It’s been a long, but rewarding week here at Masamba.
We are still moving stuff out of the Bow Lane premises in storage, and despite some obstacles, we’re getting there. We just did a deal on another big shed last night that will house the rest of the gear, so now all we need is the time and people-power to get all the stuff moved – it seems sad and ironic mothballing tons of Carnaval instruments and costumes, just as Carnaval begins around world, but there ya go! It has to be said that our new van came at the right time, although right now we could do with something bigger – a LOT bigger!

Starting the process of relocating Masamba’s vast stock of instruments and costumes into storage – 03/02/2018

Otherwise, it has almost been business as usual. We had a great rehearsal on Monday, ahead of our gig in the Sugar Club tonight It will be a reduced version of the band, so that we can fit on stage, but we have some nice Carnaval rhythms from around Brasil ready to go, and in tandem with the Tropicalia movie and a raft of Latin DJs, it should be a cracker of a night.

Carnavalia Graphic

On Wednesday, we were joined by no less than 5 new people at rehearsals, and got through a full set list of pieces. We only hope that these ‘newbies’ can make the transition with us to our new rehearsal space at Jigsaw. We will be publishing full details of that when time permits.

Simeon gets a makeover ahead of the Sugar Club gig, courtesy of a member of our Youth Project

Last night, we had our youth group in and, numbers were down because of all the confusion of the move. Fair play to them, they asked if they could try to lead a piece by themselves. This is something we have been working towards for a while, and it was not only great that they suggested it themselves, but also they did a great job  – maybe now they’ll appreciate how difficult it is for us;-)
Also, yesterday, we managed to help out a local school. Some of our youth group attend CBS James’s Street, and while we were talking about the move, they suggested that the school might take some of the spare lockers we had in the rehearsal space. Well, yesterday we managed to do a few van run up to them and deliver around 20 lockers that they can use for students to keep books, etc. in. It is very much in the ethos of Masamba as a community-based group to both help other similar organisations, and to reduce waste, by re-using materials where possible – win-win for everyone!
Today, we are back in St. James’s Primary School for a day of classes there, we have a meeting with the City of Dublin Youth Service Board this afternoon, and then off to the Sugar Club, where the weekend, and CARNAVAL begins!! (I wonder if we can get away with taking 5 days off???)
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