New girl on the bloco.

I joined AK Samba in July last year, and as a newbie didn’t have a clue about many things. One thing I quickly did pick up, because I heard it so often, was that ‘Wellington’ and ‘Cuba Dupa’ were synonyms for something really really awesome in summer. What exactly? I had no idea, but It was THE thing everyone seemed to be working towards all year.

However, being new to it all – to New Zealand, to Auckland, to playing an instrument – I didn’t bother too much with Wellington. I focused on practicing on Sundays and Mondays. Eventually, I was declared gig ready and while practices were fun, that’s when the real fun started: Ponsonby Market Days, Christmas parades, fund raising support for charities, Christmas parades, a fashmob for our own promotion, Christmas parades, and more Christmas parades.

With all those practice hours and the sweat & tears (yes, both) of months of gigs under my belt, I thought I knew what to expect from ‘Cuba Dupa’.

Man was I wrong.

Cuba Dupa, that’s two days of street festival in Wellington, taking performing and being a member of AK Samba to a new level.

Already playing a joint gig with five samba bands all at once.. We made some serious noise! And don’t get me wrong, the crowds at Christmas parades in Auckland are good. They enjoy listening to music, but people who come to a street festival on Cuba Street want to dance and cheer and celebrate!

And so do AK Samba band members when they go away for a weekend. The travelling, the different city, the leader (coincidentally a teacher by profession) telling us when to be where, the handful of people who sneak into bed an hour before sunrise.. it all felt a bit like a really really awesome school trip – and it is definitely THE thing I will be practicing for all of this year.

Iris

 

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A genuine Brazilian feeling Brazil in the veins with AK Samba music energy!

 

Aaaaahhh, have you ever had that feeling of missing something or someone from your “natural habitat”? It usually happens to those who somehow move to a different hood, city, state or overseas. Well, that has happened to me again. Here I am in Aotearoa! 

Since I moved here in October 2015, I had had no contact with my Brazilian culture or Brazilian people. That may sound a bit odd, but with a busy student life and lots of plans for my future in NZ, it simply did not happen. But, like a gift sent from the Gods, I got my first job in NZ and together with it a Brazilian work mate, Karla Egypto. She invited me to see her playing her instrument, surdo, in a Samba group. I had never heard of AKSamba and never thought I would find a “bateria de escola de samba” in Auckland. I was completely shocked when I saw the band. I could not ask anything more than to be filled with the magic and energy of this vibrant rhythm from my beautiful country! And what a special group of musicians from all over the world! My thought was, REALLY? I had goose bumps during the entire time of that gig at Aotea Square on a beautiful afternoon.

I went to see the group practice on the following Monday evening and from that day on I started practicing with my chosen instrument, the “agogo“. I have never skipped one practice since then! How amazing is that?! I had traditionally participated in all Carnival gigs since I was a little in my mom’s home town, Esmeraldas, near Belo Horizonte, the capital of the State of Minas Gerais, Brazil. And now I am part of this amazing Samba group here in Auckland, bringing me back to my origins, making me feel closer to my culture and filling my life with the joy that is rhythm, colors, happiness, friendship and love. All this here in our beautiful Auckland, Aotearoa!

With a couple of important gigs on my ‘portfolio’; Women’s March on Washington (Auckland) and Brazilian Day Festival 2017, it seems I will not miss a single gig and be part of this addiction that is samba and carnival!

AK Samba “rocks” my world! 

 Paulo Henrique Rodrigues de Souza aka PH


Cubadupa

There was sunshine and Samba galore at the 2016 Cubadupa street festival in Wellington. On both Saturday and Sunday, AKSamba played brilliantly, and held strong in the melting heat. We spent the first day eating our way up and down Cuba Street. Some of us had a parade and a dance when Tauranga Samba played their way down the street. As the sun fell, we donned our epic roller derby/glam Bowie costumes and made our way to the Swan stage. We played a tight and fierce set that had the crowd rocking. Then, we paraded down Cuba Street with swelling crowds in hot pursuit. And in our final set at Te Aro Park, we SLAYED, whipping the crowd into a frenzy of awesome dance moves. It was an epic experience as we served a big, rhythmic helping of FUN. That night, we danced the night away at the local gay bar, S&M’s, those of us who could still bust a move, that is.

The next day, all the Samba bands straggled into rehearsal. We were joined by the dancers and filled the hall with over one hundred drums and dancers. What a sound! And the sight of it was electrifying. Groups from all over New Zealand and even Australia came together to speak a common language – Samba. After a much needed lunch break, all the groups came together again at Te Aro Park, a crazy quilt of colored t-shirts, each color representing a different club from a different city. But we played as one. We Love-Trained it to the Swan stage; our locomotive- the dancers, followed by tens of agogos, tams, caixa, shakers, and repiniques. And in the back- the caboose of the Surdos.  Once we were onstage, it seemed we filled the whole square and played an awesome set for a huge crowd.

Overall it was an excellent experience. And a wonderful way to bond with the band. Thank you AKSamba for taking us new ones under your wings!

 


FIFA

Who says samba and rain don’t go together? We certainly proved otherwise this weekend.  A marathon gig at the FIFA under 20 Finals double-header had us entertaining the crowds in the pouring rain, but there was no dampening of the spirits. What an awesome vibe from start to finish. Our attractive ponchos and the splash effect of water on our drums only added to the atmosphere. This gig took us all around the North Harbour Stadium, playing to the crowds as they arrived for the games, keeping them entertained during half time, and cheering on the teams as they battled it out on the field.

Highlights included being joined by the Brazilian Divas in the dry spells, drumming along with Brazilians and their ad hoc samba band cheering on their team, and the incredible range of footie fans boogieing along to our beats. The fact that Brazil were in the finals ensured we had plenty of candidates giving the Divas a run for their samba-shuffling money. 5 hours of drumming makes this the longest (and certainly wettest) gig we have played in a long time, but also one of the most satisfying.

More photos are here

Jo

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Battle of Hastings

It is hard to sell the idea of a trip to Hastings to anybody especially when you add in these highlights.

  • 5-6 hours drive through some winding roads in the rain
  • one star accommodation, sharing a room with farting strangers
  • prison shower block
  • forced small-talk with people obsessed with weird foreign drumming music
  • walk through the town, smiling at confused strangers banging a drum onto your shins
  • bleeding onto your instrument (100% effort Brady)
  • wearing a shower cap to humiliate yourself on stage
  • Hawkes Bay souvenirs include tinitus, blisters, hangover, longing for own bed and a quiet room.

Putting this aside, I am sure that we all had a mega time and well done to April who made it her first gig with the team.

After the long wait to parade, we slotted in towards the back end. In previous years, we had joined the ranks of Wellington, but this time we were AKSAMBA. It was great to see local players Bays Batucada, the newest Samba group in New Zealand in action being lead by Phil (previously from Tauranga samba)

After a pit stop for chips and a cold beer, we headed back to perform as a mega band of over 60 players in front of the main stage and the massive crowd (not). This was absolutely magnificent and I am sure we rattled some windows more than the 1931 earthquake.

A long soak in the hot pools was just the tonic for aching limbs and after a communal dinner at the marae, the evening rolled on with great entertainment till after midnight.

We had been practicing our synchronised swimming act but little did any of us know that Wellington were doing exactly the same thing even with a cardboard shark’s fin.

One showstopper which all of us could not believe we were witnessing was “Elevare” . A copy of a Cirque de Solei strength act starring Darren and Nina. You had to be there.

New friendships were made and old acquaintances were hugged.

The Samba family is very healthy and this makes it all worth while.

Some photos are here

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Coromandel gig

We were delighted to be invited to play at Illume Coromandel Winter Festival Of Light on 12th July. So in what seemed to be the stormiest weekend we’ve had, we packed up our cars and headed off into the rain for another wonderful Samba roadtrip.

We were kindly put up at The Culdian House – which overlooked a duckpond and was just around the corner from the magnificent Driving Creek Cafe (which would come in handy the next day).

Due to the rain, the gig had been moved indoors into the school hall. On went our glow in the dark t-shirts and Adam Ant face paint and we walked onto the candlelit stage to play a 40 minute set to the Coromandel community. It took a while for the crowd to warm up but as usual we had people up and dancing by the time it was finished.

After the set we went outside to play gentle samba beats as families let off beautiful rice paper lanterns into the night sky – luckily it had stopped raining by this point!

With our instruments packed away, the night finished with delicious pizzas from a local eatery and then 3 hours of dancing at the drum’n’bass party at The Chai House (those light up t-shirts came in handy again)

What a wonderful community festival – thanks for having us Coromandel!

Here is a video of the night


Sambanui Part 2

I wasn’t sure what to expect at Sambanui, but I knew that with the awesome members of AKSamba by my side, it’d be at least a great weekend. As it turns out it was heaps better than that. Not only did I learn a lot (beats and stepping) from a very experienced, professional and easygoing teacher, but on return to AKSamba practise I felt much more confident too.

Sambanui wasn’t just about acquiring knowledge. I met a whole host of new like-minded people from around the country and, paradoxically, partied and chilled out in a world away from a typical weekend back home. Based in an outdoor camp that had no mobile signal away from towns and cities also meant there were no distractions from TXTs, email or Facebook. Total immersion in a positive way.

To perform on the last day in front of the public with the 70 or so band members and dancers from other baterias as one unit, and with all the information we had absorbed in the last three and half days, was amazing and awe-inspiring.

When I joined AK Samba, I never knew it would be as much fun and rewarding as this.

 


Sambanui

The rewards for being in AKSamba don’t come any greater than when we experience a full-immersion course in the capable hands of an international master percussionist. This time it was Leon Patel from Manchester teaching drums, while Adriana Rosso from Brazil taught dance to a separate group.

Providing pretty much the only reason you’d ever want to go to Wainuiomata (other than the second-hand record store), Sambanui was organised by our Wellington counterparts, Wellington Batucada. More than 70 drummers and 12 dancers from AKSamba, Wellington Batucada, Samba de Sol (Nelson), Tauranga Samba and Sambatron (Hamilton) made the pilgrimage.

Accommodation wasn’t that flash (Brookfield Scout Camp), but the attendees were 5-star. When the drumming stopped, the socialising and partying began. After four days, bodies aching, minds expanded, friendships strengthened and drumming skills honed, the AKSamba contingent returned to Auckland with new rhythms to perfect over winter.

We look forward to seeing you at one of our gigs so that you can also feel the benefit that we felt by being part of what was a spectacular drumming adventure.

 

 


AKSamba off the grid

We are looking forward to joining a range of percussionists at Earth Songs – a night “off the grid” world music celebration.

Earth Songs features high-energy percussive music from Tamashii Taiko Drummers, African Drummers, Dubtext (live electronica!) and of course AKSamba.

For those of us who can’t make it down to WOMAD, we bring a slice of world music to the beautiful Kawai Purapura Retreat Centre in Albany, just 20 minutes’ drive from Auckland’s CBD.

It will be a fun, family-friendly, alcohol-free evening celebrating dance music from all over the world. There will also be a twilight eco market featuring food and stalls focusing on ecological sustainability.

The whole evening will be “off the grid”, powered without electricity.

Presales are just $15 from www.kawaipurapura.co.nz or $20 cash on the gate. Children 12 and under come free. Bring your instrument if you want to join in the jam at the end!

Earth Songs