Mass samba madness in the tropical heat
In which 150+ samba drummers and dancers from across NZ (and Oz!) get together and drum our little sox off in the Mass Samba Bloco Super CubaDupa Extravaganza (thing).
Still on a huge buzz from the night before, we began CubaDupa day 2 with a mass rehearsal at Mt Cook School. It’s an amazing feeling rehearsing with a bazillion of your fellow sambistas from across New Zealand (and Oz!) – such a powerful sound.
The bloco was sorted into sections, just like at normal band practice, with members of the different samba groups all mixed up together in each section. It’s great to spend some time rehearsing and playing with members of other samba groups – it gives you a wider perspective on what you play. All the pieces we were playing in the mass samba jam were from Sambanui (which means we all know them) plus (from London School of Samba) Fred’s original samba, which we also all know.
O’Zirigidum and Bay Batucada both had solo shows there before the mass bloco formed up, and it was great to sit under the shade of the trees in Te Aro Park and watch the two newest members of the NZ (Australasian?) Samba Massive doing their thing.
Once they were finished, all five directors headed to the front of the line and got all 150+ of us into some sort of formation with dancers at the front, and we were off and playing.
It’s amazing to think that this is only the second CubaDupa and yet it feels so established already – like it’s one of those Meant To Be kind of events. It’s so great to be able to share the wonders of Wellington with other members of the samba community – and also (and more importantly) to watch them play and get to perform with them as well. It’s awesome.
We ran through the entire set at Te Aro Park – Ijexá, Funkanui, Maxixe, Sambanui Samba Reggae and Samba – and then, continuing to play Samba, we headed up Egmont Street towards Marion Street. The acoustics there are incredible – it’s really more of an alleyway with tall buildings on either side so the drumbeats just echo like crazy and we sound like 1,500 drummers rather than 150.
Going past the big block of apartments halfway up we got lots of waves and cheers and a few people who’d come down to see us and dance with us – and (unlike last year) we got no eggs thrown at us or big signs in windows reading “YOU SUCK” – so that was good. We did a special rendition of the Addams Family break for them to say thanks…
Once out of the blissful shade of Egmont Street we turned right and headed out along Marion Street in the blazing heat of the… wait, what – oh yeah – did I not mention? CubaDupa (both days) had the most incredible weather ever – crazy hot sun, bright blue cloudless sky, no wind(!), temperatures in the high 20s (well, that’s hot for Welli!) – it was amazing – but playing/dancing for a couple of hours in those temperatures under that kind of intense sun was something of a challenge, to say the least.
At last we reached the shade of the covered entranceway to the Swan stage and we could rest up and wait for a few minutes before the next part of the afternoon’s performance – the stage gig. Note for next year: get 300 bottles of ice-cold water organised and handed out at this point in the proceedings so we don’t all expire.
Once we got our breath back and the stage was cleared, it was our turn. The stage this year is a bit bigger than last year, and we fitted all the surdos on the risers themselves with the rest of us arranged at ground level, and the dancers in front of us.
It was an interesting gig. We’d already played all the pieces at the start of the street show an hour or so earlier, and we were all nicely warmed up – maybe a bit too warm – I remember feeling like I might quietly collapse with heat stroke about halfway through.
But then I thought to myself how incredibly lucky and privileged I was to be playing up there with 149 of my closest friends in the city I love, at a festival that absolutely and completely ROCKS, doing the thing I love most in the world – and then I felt just fine. What a lovely feeling to be looking out on a sunny day at an audience who’s really digging what you’re doing, watching the beautiful dancers whirling and twirling in front of us, as we do our thing and play our grooves.
Maxixe was fun – we’ve never played it quite like that before, but there’s a first time for everything, especially when you’re a performer…
At the end of the show, our MC Piotr from Uzbekislavia thanked all the CubaDupa sponsors – and mentioned that our very wonderful and completely fabulous match sponsor from last year’s CubaDupa, Mr Chris Parkin, had sponsored us again this year, with his funding allowing us to bring the Carnival Bloco together from around the country (and across the ditch!). What a great guy! Chris – thank you so much – you are awesome and we are truly grateful.
Once all the drumming and dancing was over we headed off to our second home, The Southern Cross, for a couple of glasses of lemonade with our samba whanau, in celebration of a spectacular weekend.
From the album STOP! Selfie Time… by Epu Tararo