3 days of samba immersion with Mestre Fred and Budiman
The Jambalaya Festival has the nicest atmosphere, it’s really well-run (massive props to the organisers who did an amazing job!) and the immersion courses are absolutely fabulous.
21 members of Wellington Batucada made the trip up to Auckland this year to take part in the 3-day samba immersion course with Mestre Fred from the London School of Samba and Budiman – teacher of Samba Masala and front man of Wicked Aura. We were joined by members of Auckland’s AKSamba, Hamilton Samba, Tauranga Samba, Samblasta from Rotorua and Samba de Sol from Nelson.
Each day Fred and Budi taught us so many new breaks and patterns that our heads began to spin with the sheer volume of new information. Their normal playing speed was somewhat faster than we generally play during rehearsals back home, and at times it was all I could do to keep up (and quite often I didn’t!).
It was such a privilege to learn from two such talented and enthusiastic Mestres – and even though at times I thought I’d never remember the new breaks (or keep up!), it’s amazing how much you improve when you’re immersed in drumming for three days straight.
Quite possibly the best gig EVER
Jambalaya isn’t the biggest festival in New Zealand, but it’s certainly one of the most participatory. A large percentage of the people at the festival are there to take part in one of the immersion courses, which means they’re most definitely up for a bit of participation – and that “up for it” attitude seems to rub off on everyone else, turning virtually every gig into madness and mayhem on the dance floor.
We’d seen a bit of it first-hand on the Friday night when AKSamba played an awesome gig on the main stage. The crowd went nuts, dancing like mad things, and it was altogether rather impressive. I reckon there were probably 50 band members performing – some of whom had been at the immersion course with us – they were wearing their brightly-lit LED costumes and even had the word “AKSAMBA” spelled out in lights worn by a line of drummers at the back.
AKSamba differ from Wellington Batucada in that you have to be invited to join the band – so only the best drummers get an opportunity to stick around after their beginners classes are over and rehearse with the main group – and eventually, if they’re good enough – to perform with the band. This means that technically they’re pretty awesome, and they also play at speed – quite a bit faster than we do down in Wellington.
Having experienced the might of AKSamba in concert, I have to confess I was somewhat intimidated and a wee bit nervous about our upcoming gig the following night. Only 21 of us, our basic (though very cool) black uniforms (no pretty lights!) and Darren our director only just back with us after about a year of travelling the world with his band, Batucada Sound Machine. It was going to be a hard act to follow…
We did it!
Well OK, our awesome All Blacks did it – but I’d like to think the stadium of 4 million may have helped just a little…
Wellington Batucada has been honoured to play our own small (and loud) part in the Rugby World Cup 2011, and we’ve had an absolute ball performing as part of Wellington’s Festival of Carnivale. The fans have been fabulous, the games have been thrilling, and the end result couldn’t have been more exciting if it’d been written as a Hollywood movie. Continue reading