The mass samba bloco
Over the years, the various samba schools around Aotearoa have developed their own styles, arrangements and choreography, based on the rhythms of Brazil. But we still all share a few patterns, mainly those taught to us a few years ago at the Jambalaya Festival and our own Sambanui immersive workshops.
On day 2 at CubaDupa we were given the opportunity to showcase a couple of these arrangements, with all the samba schools drumming and dancing together in the mass samba bloco. It’s a fantastic experience.
It begins with a rehearsal in the hall at Mt Cook School. Although the individual samba schools will have done some practice together before CubaCupa weekend, this is the only rehearsal we get as a group. This year it was particularly brief – less than an hour, sandwiched between a Zumba class in the hall and the actual gig itself, 15 minutes after the end of the rehearsal. Crikey!
Our director Darryn did a sterling job of running us through the two pieces – the beautiful Sambanui Ijexá, which is a candomblé rhythm from the North of Brazil featuring a very spiritual and elegant dance choreography – and Fred’s samba, a traditional Rio samba where individual dancers take it in turns to showcase their moves for the group.
Wellington Batucada plays a very short version of Ijexá within our current Rocinha samba piece, but this is the full version, which many of our newer drummers have never played before. And for many of our danceers, this complex choreography is also completely new.
In addition, for Wellington Batucada, Fred’s samba is actually 4 sambas old now (with Chris’s samba, Cabello’s samba and now Rocinha samba all being part of our repertoire more recently) – so it was a blast from the past for the oldbies, and something new for the newbies to get their heads around.
Once the rehearsal was done, we pretty much raced through the backstreets to get to Swan Stage in time for the show. It’s such fun playing in a really large group like this – the sound is so much fuller (and louder) and it sounds so awesome playing alongside 20 or more of your instrument instead of just a handful.
As you can see, we all had a jolly good time. I think it’s the best we’ve ever played Sambanui Ijexá. It’s meant to be slow and hypnotic, but it has a tendency to run away on you and start to speed up if you’re not careful – and it can easily run out of control. Not this time. We were ON IT – and it looked and sounded just fantastic. And Fred’s samba was a great opportunity for all our wonderful dancers to show off a bit to each other and the audience – such fun!
Photos by Chris McKeown, friends of Jennifer Montgomery, Ginas Bellygees, Satya Priyomarsono and Tom Etuata. Click on any thumbnail to see the larger version: