Last Saturday The Edinburgh Samba School had their autumn busk on the city’s Grassmarket; the weather was relatively nice, the crowds were decent, and the band sounded good. Sorry if you were hoping that the title was in reference to the track by Nicola Roberts (the undisputed queen of Girls Aloud – none of yer Cheryl Tweedy rubbish for me) but it’s about my return to being a musician, and joining a samba group.
I played in the school band many moons ago, and even had a brief flirtation with an accordion band when doing my O-Level on the instrument, but although I’ve messed about on instruments for years I’ve never been part of a band, and I have always hankered for some of that. Mrs Dave did a Taiko Drumming beginners course but the follow on lessons didn’t work logistically, and my best man Al is also in a drumming group, so whenever I saw the Edinburgh Samba School playing in town I’d wonder if I’d be any good at it.
This autumn was when I decided to make some changes in my life, and getting myself a hobby was a big thing, both to have something to do in my spare time, and also to meet new people. I googled drumming groups and found that the samba school were due to start a beginners course this autumn (and very good value for money) so I put my name down for it.
On the first lesson I picked the Surdo, which are the big bass drums that you see usually at the back of a parade as I assumed that they’d be the easiest (and they were) as I’d have been gutted if I paid my cash, went along, and was crap at it. Most of the class had never drummed before, but the cool thing is that the school bring along someone for each drum that knows what they are doing so you have someone to watch doing it right. Straight from the off it sounded good, and it sounded really powerful; we started with Samba Reggae (appropriate as I was a reggae buyer for Tower Records back in the day). My part was simple, but it was great fun, and I was hooked instantly.
Normally I’d be a right swat for something like this as I love discovering new music, and I am a world music fella after all, but I’ve been very busy with the new job. I don’t remember the names of any of the tunes, and what tune has what pattern, although as soon as I hear the pattern I know what to do. This made the prospect of doing a live busk in front of real people slightly more nerve wracking, but we had a run through of everything last Tuesday and it went well, especially as I didn’t even notice that I had picked up the biggest surdo instead of the medium sized one I’d used previously, so I had to learn some new parts for the gig.
As expected, we didn’t remember all the tunes, but we were given a quick reminder when we met up. It was an unexpectedly nice day, Grassmarket busy with rugby fans, and we pretty much all kept it together, a few rogue beats here and there, but to my ears it sounded good. I was slightly distracted by the fact that my beaters were much thinner than previous weeks (these things make a difference), but to watch my little girl dance to the band, and members of the public get into it, was great. I’m still not great at drumming and dancing at the same time (and only just found out that some folks wear pads underneath their trousers so that dancing doesn’t hurt when the drums bang against your legs).
My final lesson in the beginners course is tonight, but I’ve already been asking about the next lot of classes, and am looking at what drums are needed more for the main band, with a view to becoming part of that. Expect more Brazilian music posts as I learn more about it, but to have a new musical passion is very exciting for me, and in the words of Andy our teacher “drumming is awesome”.