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First Impressions: Hampshire’'s Samba Group

Friday, February 26, 2010
Aaron Richmond Havel

A lot of musicians tout the transformative nature of music and art: an experience that, once you've heard it or witnessed it, something changes within you. While I had shrugged off such dramatizations in the past, I realize now that's the only way one can accurately describe the high energy and festive spirit of the Hampshire Samba group, Sambalanco - a group of percussionists intrigued by the Brazilian art form that is evolving into a political movement worldwide. Anyone who has been to their performances can attest to the feeling of silliness and peace brought about by their practice - the after-Samba effect. It's the aftertaste of a force great enough to get exhausted students on their feet, dancing ferociously to the Latin beats.

"We need this every week, just to let all the stress out," a sweaty and drained student pleaded after their first show.

Sambalanco was born out of the Hampshire Capoeira group, where students engage in the Brazilian hybrid of dance and martial arts. "Deraldo Ferreira," the group's sponsor, "basically asked us if we had any interest in starting a Samba group, and we all thought 'yeah,'" said Amit, one of the percussionists. Starting with a few drums the school had and adding some new members, the group grew last fall to around a half dozen eager to learn traditional Brazilian rhythms while incorporating other nationalities to reflect the group's diversity. "We really are a multinational group. I am the French section," Mathilde joked. Iris, from Tel Aviv, Israel, wanted to include some Palestinian beats in the mix. Their last performance also integrated percussions from traditional Caribbean reggae.

Having their first show last semester at the Red Barn, while an exciting moment for the group, was also a test of their strength. "Our teacher had gone to Brazil, and we were basically at it all by ourselves. We decided that if we could get through that show, then we could make it on our own," Amit said. The band passed the test seamlessly - the performance began before a group of relaxed and shy students who, upon the band's suggestion, began to dance wildly.

"We're looking for more members," Amit said. Now entirely comprised of percussionists, the group would like to expand to include brass instruments and even a dance section, much like the Balkan bands of Eastern Europe gaining popularity throughout the United States.   

To contact the band:

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