Drumming and dancing the Newtown Wave
There’s something about Newtown – the multicultural buzz, the happy happy up-for-it crowd of 70,000 good-humoured peeps, the Friends of Wellington Batucada whom we can guarantee will be there to dance with us – it all adds up to an hour and a half of pure Samba ecstasy, as we make our way slowly along the Newtown parade route, led by at least a hundred dancers – mainly festival-goers who love to groove on down with us every year.
Our dancers teach them the moves – and 100 happy people repeat those moves in choreographed harmony. It’s awesome to see – and wonderful to be making the music that inspires them all to strut their stuff. There’s even an official dance move that our dancers do nowhere else but here, called the Newtown Wave. How cool is that?
This year we did something a bit different, just for fun. Our friends Niko Ne Zna were playing on the Community Stage at 3:15pm – which is the same time as we began our show further up the street. Knowing what Newtown is like, and how slowly we would be making our way along the parade route, due to the crazy happy dancing people and the crush of onlookers, we knew we’d arrive at the Community Stage at around the same time as they finished their set. A perfect opportunity to play together, methinks!
As we approached the stage, Tim C directed us into Samba Reggae pattern 2, which complements the rhythm of one of Niko Ne Zna’s songs. At first, our drum patterns seemed to clash with the brass on-stage, sounding jumbled and mixed-up – as though we had accidentally invaded another band’s space with our noise – and then all of a sudden both sets of instruments clicked into place, and the crowd roared with appreciation as they realised what was happening.
Our second song was a musical version of Merengue – called Otpisani – complete with stops, pauses and starts to mark the verse-and-chorus changes in the song. We very nearly missed the final 4-hits-on-the-1 ending (having only practiced it together once last week), but we pulled ourselves together at the last moment and nailed the final beat, which was pretty gratifying.
Waving Niko Ne Zna farewell we continued on slowly down the street, pausing every few metres as the crush of the crowds and the grooving of our dancers got too great to allow us to go anywhere.
90 minutes after we began, we played our final piece and the dancers and the band cheered each other like crazy people. I could have played for another 90 minutes for sure – it was such a great, uplifting, joyous performance. I’m looking forward to next year already!
Here’s a final video – the official “highlights of the event” video by the organisers of the Newtown Fair themselves, as a promo for the 2015 event. Wonderful stuff, and yes – we’re in it:
Click on any thumbnail to see the larger version. You can use left and right arrows on your keyboard to navigate. Photos by Alan Shuker: