African arts, culture + politics · London culture

Nigeria’s No 1 Samba School

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(ARISELIVE.com, October 2011) Pictured Seyi Ajeigbe, founder of Eko Samba School in Lagos, with his growing bateria

Words Carinya Sharples

It’s the national music and dance of Brazil, yet the roots of samba stretch back to Africa – from the semba rhythms of Angola to the Yoruban agogô bell. Now one musician is completing the circle by setting up Nigeria’s first samba school.

Seyi Ajeigbe moved to the UK from Nigeria ten years ago and it was in London that he discovered and learnt to play samba. “I was amazed and dazed at the same time,” he remembers. “I had never seen anything like it … the energy was so gripping I had to get involved immediately”.

After performing with many groups – from the London School of Samba to samba reggae band Eri Okan – Ajeigbe decided to share his expertise with young children in his home city, Lagos.

Through his new project, Eko Samba School (named after the traditional Yoruba name for Lagos), Ajeigbe aims to teach samba to kids in disadvantaged communities in the Nigerian city. “The children just love being able to play drums, a lot of them would love to but haven’t got access to anything like it,” says Ajeigbe. “Samba for them is something they’ve never heard of, but they are willing to learn something new, they truly enjoy it and I think it makes them feel like they’re part of an international community.”

On the ground, setting up Eko Samba School has had its obstacles. “We’ve had a lot of difficulties getting any support or recognition from within Lagos itself,” says Ajeigbe. “We couldn’t get into the Lagos carnival… it was also impossble to get an audience at the Brazilian Embassy. No one really knew or understood what we were trying to do except us”. However, he adds, the music has made it all worth it. “The best part so far has been the music itself. It brings a lot of satisfaction to hear the samba swing in the middle of a slum in Lagos, it’s as if the souls of those slaves taken via Lagos to Brazil are returning.”

After returning to Nigeria earlier this year to set up the school, Ajeigbe is back in London to raise capital for the project – to buy much needed resources and instruments. A night of live music will be held on October 30 at East London music venue Cargo to kickstart fundraising. Ajeigbe will perform at the one-off event with his band Agemo, alongside Maracatudo Mafua and a special samba bateria.

For more information on the Eko Samba School fundraiser on October 30 and details on how you can donate to the fund visit www.gandaia.org.

London culture

Brazil in London: Brazilian Music in London

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(Visit London, 26 November 2010) Rebeca Vallim, a singer from Rio de Janiero, tells us about the exciting Brazilian music scene in London for our World in London project.

How long have you been living in London?
Almost six years now. What I really like about living in London is all the different cultures in one place.

Where have you performed in London?
All around London, including Guanabara, Ronnie Scott’s, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Favela Chic, Pizza on the Park, Rose Theatre Kingston, On Anon, Barbican and The Green Note.

I’ve also performed at different London festivals, like Thames Festival, Carnaval del Pueblo, Summer in Holborn and Bloomsbury Festival.

What is your favourite place to perform?
It’s really hard to say!  Probably the Southbank Centre as they’re very supportive of artists, and encourage and promote Brazilian music, like with Festival Brazil this summer. The audience are great too, people aren’t busy drinking or chatting – they come to appreciate the music.

What is the Brazilian music scene like in London?
The Brazilian music scene in London is very varied, with rhythms from North to South of Brazil. It’s exciting, there’s so much happening.

You can hear all kinds of Brazilian music in London: bossa-nova, samba, maracatu, forró, samba-rock, pop, country, chorinho, samba-reggae and others…

Where do you go to listen to Brazilian music in London?
The last places I’ve been to hear Brazilian music were Guanabara for a concert by Diogo Nogueira, a great sambista of the new generation; Royal Albert Hall to see Gilberto Gil, an icon of Brazilian music; and Koko to see the great singer Maria Rita.

I also recommend the Tia Maria restaurant in Vauxhall, which has live samba and choro every Thursday.

So where can we see you perform?
I perform in a number of different bands: Rebeca Vallim & Band, Mafua de Yaya, Viramundo, Umpatacum and Maracatudo Mafua.

My next gig is Brazilian Night at Ronnie Scott’s Bar, upstairs at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho, on 9 Dec from 8pm.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/11/brazil-in-london-brazilian-music-in-london/

London culture

London International Documentary Festival: Rio Breaks

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(Visit London, 5 May 2010) The weather may have been miserable this Bank Holiday Weekend (surprise, surprise), but in Kilburn the surf was up, the sun out and bikinis on.  Unfortunately, it was only in celluloid form, as Tricycle Theatre hosted the European premiere of Rio Breaks, a Brazilian surfer film with heart.

While the rain poured outside, we were transported to the beautiful beaches of Rio de Janeiro to meet two best friends; 13-year-old Fabio and 12-year-old Naama. For this cheeky duo, surfing is a total obsession – but also a saviour.

Born into a dangerous favela (or slum), the boys face obstacles as high as the hill they live on – including hunger, poverty, drugs, gangs and even murder. Their escape route is provided by a local surf club that offers free lessons and board loan to young people – on the condition they attend school.

Beautifully shot, the film is inspiring and funny – but still realistic; the boys aren’t angels, their future isn’t fixed and the violence continues around them. Yet their talent and passion shine through. And there’s some pretty amazing surfing, too!

We ended the night at local Brazilian restaurant Barraco, with a plate of juicy steak, rice and beans – and a berry caipirinha cocktail made with a liberal pouring of cachaça. Delicioso!

Rio Breaks is just one film from the ongoing London International Documentary Festival, which began on 23 April. The festival continues until 8 May and there are still lots more films to see, including:

  • Children of the Desert / Figli del deserto, 5 May, Free Word Centre
  • Andrew And Jeremy Get Married, 6 May, The Horse Hospital
  • H.O.T. Human Organ Traffic, 8 May, British Museum

For full listings, visit the London International Documentary Festival website.

Visit our London film festival calendar for more cinematic treats in the city, such as the current Terracotta Far East Film Festival.

http://blog.visitlondon.com/2010/05/london-international-documentary-festival-rio-breaks/