A few years ago I was part of a samba-reggae drumming band known as Batala in Lancaster, England, and played a huge bass drum. I absolutely loved it!
Playing an instrument that forces you to get physical is a wonderful way to keep healthy, and the enjoyment is incomparable to anything else. They say music is good for the soul and that's very true. Especially when it's so loud your whole body vibrates through with the music you're making!
In brief, the following describes Batala:
Giba Gonçalves is the maestro of the Batala sound, which he composed after the style of his home town Salvador, in Brazil. The music has its roots in African traditional music which found its way to Brazil and has been incorporated in to Brazilian culture since. Using this influence, Giba formed a 60-piece drumming band, called it Batala, and encouraged anyone with an interest in his music to form their own Batala group under his name. There are now eight such groups across Europe playing the same funky rhythms. Samba-reggae compositions with noted African influences beaten out on four different types of drum. The result is a raw, hypnotic combination of emotion, beats and rhythm. ~ Extract from Batala Lancaster website.
I first saw Batala playing in the streets of Lancaster in 2011, and I was thrilled to the core! You hear the drums streets away and you're compelled to find the source of this incredible noise... and then you see them all dressed in black, white and red, doing these sexy samba moves at the same time as pounding beats on their awesome drums, and it's fantastic! I said to my husband "I want to do that!" and to my delight they were recruiting new members. I signed up immediately and started attending practice sessions.
It took about 3 months training before they let us loose in public. With 4 different types of drums, we all had to learn exactly when to play and when no to, and when to shout out things like "Batala Hey!" Lots of concentration is needed at first, but after a while you get into the swing of it and your very soul becomes part of the music too. And afterwards you realise just how much physical effort it takes... hot and sweaty and aching muscles, but in a good way!
I remember my first time playing in the streets of Lancaster, standing in formation outside Marks & Spencer, with crowds gathering, and I was so nervous. Also it was February and freeeeeeezing.
The loudness of it was thrilling beyond words (everyone had ear plugs in of course!) The buzz of the practice was fun enough, but playing in the streets was something else. Dressed up in our groovy gear, with massive drums strapped round our waists, and the crowds we drew... There's no experience like it!
Here I am doing some cool moves... ;-)
Sadly there's no Batala where I am in Ireland now, but you never know, maybe one day I'll get to play again. At least I can say "Been there, done that, and still got the t-shirt!"
But for sure being part of this band was an amazing experience I'll remember until my last day!
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