It’s a year for special birthdays for the Glasgow-based Brazilian street band group SambaYaBamba – the parent organisation is marking two full decades, and its youth offspring is already a full year old and thriving.
The latter came about to address the fact that there was no city-wide, inclusive street band in Glasgow for young people aged 12 to 19.
So last year SambaYaBamba Youth Street Band was formed, and is now funded by Young Start (Big Lottery), Youth Music Initiative (Creative Scotland) and supported by Glasgow Life (Unesco City of Music).
The band of about 30 drummers and 20 brass/wind players rehearse every week and perform regularly. Some of the group are taking part in a week-long cultural exchange with Samba Resille in Toulouse, France, to share their knowledge of brass and wind players in street groups.
Project manager Gaynor Milne says: “We’re really delighted with the progress of all the young players in SambaYaBamba Youth Street Band, they’re already making their mark on the UK and European street band scene.”
School visits are a crucial part of Gaynor’s role in introducing young students to the band.
Emma Jane Hastings, 16, plays the clarinet and loves samba. She says: “I was able to find out about SambaYaBamba through their school visits. It has given me the chance to learn how to play by ear and memorise music which, up until now, I have never seen as an important skill.
“Being able to join in parades and events within such diverse communities has been an amazing experience. I have made friends with people who I would never have been able to meet without this band, especially those who play in the drum section.
“Even working with such a large percussion section has allowed me to grow rhythmically and I would not trade my experiences within the band for anything. The staff are easy-going, easy to approach and are willing to support all of us in every way they can, even by letting us lead the band at times.”
Barny Dempsey, 20, a performing artist with the group, says he’s already had his parents, friends, and friends’ parents telling him how “ace” the Youth Band are.
“I started attending (the parent group) after my mum found a link online and told me I should check it out since I didn’t have much on at the time and, like I have been all my days, was keen to be playing drums.
“The youth band was formed a while after and I gleefully swapped over, feeling a bit more in my element with some younger folk. From then it’s been all go and an important and treasured part of my life. New social scene, mega cool staff, and producing unmatchable sounds. There’s not a whole lot else I could ask for really.”
And there’s another landmark ahead. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of their organisation, SambaYaBamba have teamed up with Edinburgh-based street band specialists Oi Musica and Glasgow’s Merchant City Festival to host Scotland’s first ever Street Band Festival, Encontro Scotland, on July 22-23.
Encontro means ‘meeting’ in Portuguese and the event will bring the streets of Glasgow to life with around 15 bands from Scotland, England, France, the Netherlands, and Brazil.
Gaynor Milne says: “This is a really unique and exciting opportunity for SambaYaBamba Youth Street Band to perform on an international stage, be inspired by other styles of street bands and make life-long connections within the carnival and street performer network.
“We’re utterly thrilled to be able to expand the horizons of SambaYaBamba Youth Street Band through this international festival and facilitate exciting cultural learning and collaboration opportunities as we head towards 2018, the Year of Young People and also when Glasgow plays host to the European Championships.”
For more information on SambaYaBamba, go here