Friday, August 1, 2014

The road to Coburg

Hearing about the German samba paradise of Coburg from other band members, 6 people from Wellington Batucada decided to combine their passion for drumming, enthusiasm for good times and family duties in the motherland in one grand tour.

We typically hang out together in a large sports hall with 40 other drummers, wearing ear plugs and making a lot of noise. This usually makes communication fairly reliant on body language: The knowing nod of nailing it, The samba face of deep concentration, The pained expression of limbs giving up the ghost, and The wild gesticulations of the frustratingly misunderstood.

All noteworthy relationships are built on these sturdy foundations. We'd be alright but what about the locals? How will they cope with the infernal tapping of feet and fingers? Or Samba Pattern Tourettes Disorder - randomly vocalising breaks and rhythms like a badly broken Brazilian beat box?

We practiced with the mighty London School of Samba on our first weekend to ready our samba chops for a slightly more frenetic pace than usual. This was made easier by having a formidable amount of dancers attacking the bateria in formation at the monthly Quadra night. Exciting stuff. Then down to the Windmill Tavern.


We traveled to Cambridge, midweek, to join the wonderful people of Arco Iris. They play a smorgasboard of rhythms and infuse them all with heaps of energy. I especially liked the democratic embodiment of a community group with half the people directing different pieces. Then off to the White Swan.

I lived in Cambridge for seven years, only 400 meters from their place of practice, so interesting that it took moving to NZ to get involved.

We tried to visit a school in Barking but they exhibited a break down in community group relations. A small political rift was followed by a physical altercation, so the practice was cancelled. Like any self respecting group of impassioned sambistas, there is a fine line between smashing the crap out of your drum (good, when in time) or smashing the crap out of another band member (bad, even when pummeling their bonce with some good swing).

Back in London with LSS, we were asked if we'd like to participate in the small, school oriented Waterloo Carnival. No need to be asked twice to don the whites!

A scorching day in London, some confused commuters in buses, many awesome costumes, the amazingly enthusiastic LSS dancers and one or two re-hydrating beverages at the Camel and Artichoke made for an excellent day.

Traveling on the Eurostar from St Pancreas to Paris took us to Sambatuc. These guys were practicing 9 hours over two nights to nail a set for a carnival in Liverpool. Needless to say, they were a precise and well oiled machine. The caixas were en masse, furious and had more swing than you can waggle a stick at. The composition was complicated, had some great choreography and included some challenging dueling surdos. Then off to a bar to watch Germany put another three goals past Brazil.

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