An interview with Lisa Stewart of SambaYaBamba
If you watched the BBC hype of the 2014 Commonwealth Games then might you might have noticed a Samba band jazzing outside Buchanan Galleries. Who are these guys and what were they doing there? Well here sax player, Lisa Stewart, explains all.
“SambaYaBamba are a community band, formed in 1996.
“Recently we got to play live for BBC breakfast, as part of the Commonwealth Games coverage; it was great fun and we’re excited to be associated with the Games.
“The live TV segments were just snippets; a bit different from our normal performances. We also spent the morning performing for crowds on Buchanan Street to get them excited for the Games.”
Hired by Glasgow 2014 officials, to create a festival atmosphere, SambaYaBamba played the streets and venues of the city, something in which the band was already well versed.
“We’re all proud Glaswegians, so we’ve done more than our share of rainy and windy sets. Our music is so energetic though that it’s always fun – and hopefully we brighten up the days of the people listening.”
Bright is apt description of the band, usually clad in tartan and red icon tops.
“Our t-shirt logo is developed from the Glasgow coat of arms, the fish are meant to represent the fish swimming towards the ring in the Clyde, from the story of the coat of arms. It’s tough explaining this one when we play abroad! We always get a lot of attention at the annual samba festival in Germany for wearing our kilts.”
Every year the band travel to Coburg festival to represent Scotland in the global samba scene.
“Coburg is the highlight of our calendar. This small town in Bavaria, Germany becomes a mardi gras for samba groups from all around the world. We always get a great reception and after going for years, it’s now a massive social event for us where we are reunited with our international friends.”
Trips like Coburg are made possible from the band’s relentless performances.
“We are a non-profit band. Every member has full time jobs – our performance fees keep the band running and enable us to run beginners workshops, and travel to festivals.”
The band has also stared at festivals closer to home, leading the way at Glasgow’s West End Festival 2013.
“We were upfront, leading the parade from the Botanic Gardens and through the streets of the West End – we could not believe the crowds that turned out. Over 80,000 people saw us that day – the atmosphere was electric. It just shows how much Glasgow values community events like this; at our heart we are a community band.”
This is shown in the band’s usual bill of festivals, gala days, club nights, weddings, and corporate events.
Such practice has allowed the band to develop its own style, which veers slightly from the genre norm.
“We are of course, primarily a samba band, but we don’t just stick to Brazilian music or traditional samba. The fact that we have a horn section really sets us apart from other baterias (Brazilian drumming groups) and opens up a whole range of styles that we can play.
“Our set includes reggae, funk and drum n bass – even a bit of rapping and beat-boxing sometimes.
“I’ve been in the band for over three years now. I play saxophone, so I’m not actually part of the bateria. In the horn section we develop our own riffs to go with the grooves that the bateria come up with. We don’t use any written music, just come up with our riffs and memorise them. We improvise a bit too, especially on the funky tunes.”
To sample these tunes, get information on live performances at SambaYaBamba website.