Bloco Dos Sujos is a Brazillian percussion bateria based in Bristol UK. It was formed in 2014 by Paul Baxter who was also a founder of Ziriguidum. Paul described the concept as a simple idea: “play samba properly”. I went to introductory sessions with the band on Thursdays in October through to December and the playing was inspiring. It felt relaxed and fluid and at the same time it was really tight. A good drug. Bloco Dos Sujos facebook page.
Many people in the UK associate the term “samba band” with a group of percussionists who generally play a range of styles to build a set. A drumming bateria is one part of the whole machine and usually joined by singers and a cavaquinho player (a small guitar type instrument) as well as dancers. Bloco Dos Sujos concentrate on playing the arrangements and songs of Rio samba. As some people say: “they just play samba”. There are many variations of the samba style that are generally named after the main samba schools in Rio that originated them.
This video is from a performance at No1 Habourside in Bristol in December 2015. The band were joined by singer Xavier Osmir and cavaquinho player Adriano Dias.
I took these photographs without flash using a Canon G1X. It was very dark in the venue so I was running a very high ISO level. I’m still impressed with the results this camera can produce.
Sanctum Bristol is a programme of 552 hours of continuous performance during Nov 2015. It takes place in a temporary structure built from reclaimed materials located in a bombed out church near Bristol city centre. Whilst the artists are listed on the Sanctum website there is no public programme so visitors experience a lucky dip. The name of the performers is written onto a blackboard. I’m there myself later in the month with the African Sambistas .
I called round at 10.30 pm on the opening night to take a look. I caught the end of a performance from a singer with computerised backing tracks which sounded great. The next slot was taken by pianist Simon Capet which was lovely but didn’t satisfy my cravings for crazy things. The last performer I saw was a harp player who I wasn’t too excited about at first. Things started off quite slowly and with fairly predictable runs up and down the strings and I wasn’t really into it until one of the bass strings was brought in and then I was pulled in by the sound. I left after a crowd pleasing Stairway to heaven. My visit coincided with a reporter from Bristol 24/7 who spent almost 24 hours there: “My (almost) 24 hours at Sanctum”
I spent 5 days at Womad UK (Charlton Park) with the African Sambistas. We did 3 workshop sessions and drummed for the Sunday parade. The dates were Fri 24th to Sun 26th though we arrived on Wednesday morning and left on Monday.
The line up included the following (lifted from efestivals): De La Soul, Tinariwen, Bellowhead, CW Stoneking, 47soul, AcholiMachon, Aurelio Martinez, Banda Magda, veteran Brazilian singer Dona Onete, Eska, Ester Rada, Kim Churchill, L’Hijaz’Car, Molotov Jukebox, Orange Blossom, Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp, Japanese funk from Osaka Monaurail, Sagapool, Sona Jobarteh, and Swindle.
I didn’t really see any of the big name bands but I did hear a live mix of several of them late at night in the tent. It was a great sound. The Bowers and Wilkins sound stage promised a lot of interesting performances but failed to deliver for me.
The weather alternated daily: Friday: rain, Saturday: dry and sunny, Sunday: rain. I went to the morning sessions with yoga tree and then wandered around, taking in the healing gardens, various small stages and a daily visit to Carter’s vintage steam fair to feed our waltzer and octopus addiction. The ghost train, chair-o-plane, steam boats and victorian swings were also great. We spent several hours a day preparing and delivering our workshop sessions.
Womad is often described as the most middle class festival. The positives include a good natured crowd who are receptive to unheard music and lack of too much scummy excess but I found it to be a slightly flat festival compared with, say, Shambala. Womad UK is big and organised which is great, maybe it’s too big and organised.
I can’t remember the name of any the bands that I saw apart from the Malmesbury School’s Project on Thursday night with Tomorrow’s Warriors, which was good.
On Sunday afternoon the rain was falling, it was slightly cold and the ground was muddy. As we sat under our gazebo in the camp sight then it’s fair to say that spirits weren’t too high concerning the parade. But we there to do a job so we set off to do it, wondering how we were going to parade round the whole site when walking took twice the effort as normal.
When we arrived at the parade start we found that the plans had been modified. The various samba bands played a set in the dry under the dome stage. Then the unexpected happened and the sun appeared. The procession was significantly shortened so that it looped into the nearest stage tent (red or blue) turned round and came back. The parade ending with a jam with Ilu Axe, Beatroots, the African Sambistas and anyone else with a drum to hit.
We packed up in sunshine on Monday, driving past the clean up operation with a massive pile of broken tents being loaded into recycling containers.
In summary, it was a major achievement to survive the whole festival considering the weather. I had fun hanging out with my friends from the sambistas. We did a bit of work and we got to experience a lot of festival. Hopefully 2016 will be dry.
I had mixed feelings about spending another weekend at a festival. I’ve seen photographs of festivals when it rains, videos of casualties sleeping in litter strewn fields and people always talk about festival toilets. Despite becoming increasingly sensible over time there was still a youthful part of me that wanted the excitement and adventure so I got on with packing my tent and wellies.
As I found out, Cheltenham Racecourse is a well kept venue though the festival seemed to be placed onto a building site. This worked quite well since a fair proportion of the ground was compacted gravel which was weather proof. The camp site was spacious, the toilets were cleaned regularly by Andy Loos, there were free showers (hidden after the Superspa djs) and the festival had a lot of families there which seemed to keep things good natured. The line up was a mixed bag which seemed to work well. The biggest acts each night were:
I really enjoyed the two hours of Hobgoblin comedy each night. Six acts with twenty minutes each and they were all funny. Jay Cowle and Jack Heal tickled me the most. After that we went off to the silent disco. It wasn’t that keen on the idea but it turned out to be a really good idea. It wasn’t silent – the big top was full of people cheering, laughing and singing along.
Here’s what I got up to.
I heard a few people saying that the festival wasn’t as good as it used to be. There’s a special Facebook group for them: Whingefest. For me the festival gave me a great weekend with a mix of entertainment, a well sorted camp site and a crowd who seemed up for having a good time. I’m off to a few more festivals with the African Sambistas this year this year so I’ll have something to compare it with: Womad and Shambala.
The Welsh Encontro Cardiff 2015 was a three day event for samba bands and percussionists. It was held in the bay area of the city and organised by Samba Galez.
Full write up coming later. I need to sleep now! I have a lot of video to edit too.
I woke up on Saturday morning feeling weary from residual man-flu and wondering if I was going to have enough energy to go to the evening event. Energy levels were lifted when I went to my first workshop, Baque to basics. There was a wall of drums reaching to the ceiling and once we had 30 people laying down some maracatu grooves I remembered why I was there.
Ola Samba did a busking slot at midday. Then in the afternoon I had a caixa (snare) workout at a great cuban carnival workshop. This was another big groove session which left me smiling and on an endorphin high.
I saw several really top notch bands peforming in the city centre on Saturday night and took part in an impromptu busk. Thanks to Eri Okan for lending me a timba. Bloco Fogo laid down a storming set in a samba reggae style.
I was up at 10am on Sunday for a 1 hour caixa workshop with JP and then I finally got some spare time to go and watch the busking bands. The afternoon was spent with Raz from One Voice Music who had 2.5 hours to teach 40 people his arrangement for the presentation for omolu which we were going to perform that evening. We had a few wobbly moments with one transition until we realised that adrenaline was making us push the pace too hard. There was no time to worry, we had to practice with the dancers. They were following a similarly steep learning curve.
After a break for food we met up in the basement of Portland house to prepare for our performance. Energy levels were very high…and a reassuring sense of calm occurred. We had all volunteered for this because it would be exciting. Now we just had to go out and do our best. Raz really brought it together with an inspired group singing session before we walked out onto stage.
The crowd was large and cheered us on to stage….a stage that wasn’t large enough for us. After moving a few mircrophones and drums out of the way we squeezed on. As we approached the most risky transition in our piece the pace was holding back nicely, the hive mind knew what to do. We passed it without any issues, big grins all round. We were soon into our final groove and the pace and energy lifted. Tension released, everyone happy.
Raz had done a great job pulling this off and so had Marcia Magliari and the dancers.
The mass busk was held on Monday. Several hundred drummers met up in Portland house to rehearse. That was quite an event in itself. We fitted in a two band performance with Ola Samba and Sambassadors of groove. At 3pm it was time for the mass busk. After performing the rehearsed piece there was no way that the group was all going to walk off for a cup of tea….inevitably someone started a call and soon we had a samba groove going on. I’m sure there will be many videos going up on youtube with the evidence. After an hour or so we did all go home for a cup of tea.
Good times…I wrote all this at 10pm when I got home.
Here’s some of the bands I saw, ran workshops or whose members I got talking to during the event.
Things are still busy with the Cheltenham Samba band. We’ve been working on new material and also added a bit of Christmas carol singing (in the loosest sense of the word) to the existing pieces. I’ve been going to Cirencester pracice on Tuesdays and the Cheltenham practice on Wednesdays. See the Ola Samba website for class times and locations.
In the late 90s I used to go to jazz jive and lindy hop classes with JazzJiveSwing. I spent a few years going to lessons and dances and then decided to stop for a bit to see if I could come back stronger. Only I never did the coming back bit.
The thought had crossed my mind that I should be taking part in this event but I couldn’t remember any of the moves.
Heavy rain had been forecast and it arrived as predicted. No one seemed to care though! When I arrived they were making the last minute announcements and confirmed that they had more than 1000 people present (something like 1040 if I remember correctly).
I was walking past the entrance gate with my camera when they shouted “come on in, there’s 2 minutes to go” and I got caught up in the spirit of the moment. Once I had a sticker and was inside I looked round for a partner. I’ve no idea what my partner’s name was but she started showing me a basic move which I struggled to follow and then, suddenly, I was doing the moves I remembered from 10 years ago. I kept finding more moves and some of them made my partner scream….in a good way.
After 5 minutes of dancing in the rain and right over a big puddle the announcement was made that we’d all danced for five minutes and there were more than 1000 of us. A short while later they confirmed that the record had been set.
Good times, I felt inspired to go and do some more classes. I’ve no idea how I’ll fit it in around tango, samba, yoga and pilates.
From the Cheltenham Dance Festival Facebook page: “Here is the moment we excitedly found out from the Guinness World Records Official Adjudicator that Cheltenham had secured the brand new title for the most people jiving simultaneously!”