Cornwall Life meets Samba Sounds - a Falmouth-based band
PUBLISHED: 15:01 17 August 2010 | UPDATED: 15:58 20 February 2013
In this May issue, Cornwall Life meets Samba Sounds, a Falmouth-based band who have become successful even with no prior musical experience
A group of friends in Falmouth with no musical experience have been shaped into a highly successful samba band, as Cornwall Life discovers
When Sarah Barry came to Falmouth in October 2006 from her home town in County Leitrim with her Australian husband, Dave Ballantine, it was to study for a year. But by February 2007 they had set up a samba band with a few new-found friends. They had no idea that the band would go from strength to strength, long after they had finished their studies in Cornwall and returned home, but that's exactly what had happened. Two years on from its first gathering, Penrhythm samba band is doing better than ever, having just secured a grant for 4,167 from the Lottery Fund's Awards for All.
A talented percussionist as well as qualified samba band leader, Sarah made a living as a professional musician in Ireland. Dave, a circus performer, is a decent drummer and an accomplished performer. As soon as the couple arrived in Falmouth they started seeking out places where they could listen to good sounds and join in and play themselves.
As they settled into their new lives, Sarah studying for a massage qualification and Dave on a boat-building course, it was through the non-musical friends they were making that Sarah got the idea of setting up a samba band. Meeting people with no musical experience who admitted they would love to learn to play a musical instrument and be part of a band gave Sarah the idea of setting one up.
"As a samba instructor I know that this is a style of music that enables a complete novice to pick up some basic skills and start playing very quickly. Obviously it takes a lot of practice to become accomplished, but you can join in with samba relatively quickly, and it is such a great sound that you get a real buzz from playing."
So Sarah and Dave set up a samba band using their own money to buy the instruments. Samba is not just about drums - there are also bells, shakers, tambourims and other instruments. With the instruments bought and a weekly rehearsal space secured at the Women's Institute in Falmouth, Penrhythm samba band was born.
For the first few weeks everyone was just happy to get together, make some music and slowly begin to piece the component parts of samba tunes into a recognisable sound. However, under Sarah's expert guidance it didn't take long for the noise being generated to start to sound good. The mix of primal beats and hip-swinging rhythms proved irresistible as numbers doubled and the offer of a gig was made from the Z Shed at Jubilee Wharf in Penryn. Current band leader Simon Evans remembers it well: "There were a lot of nerves, but also a lot of excitement and quite a buzz. We got a great reaction from the crowd, who danced round us in a semi-circle and got right into the intoxicating sound of samba."
More gig offers followed, and suddenly the group of fledgling musicians had become a sought-after samba band. With new gig dates coming in thick and fast, the group had to give themselves a name. This came from a mixture of a move to a Penryn venue for weekly practice, an invitation to play at Penryn Town Fair in August 2007, plus a little word play... and the name Penrhythm was born.
By the end of 2007, Penrhythm had played a number of gigs to a range of audiences, from charity gigs for Amnesty International to paid gigs around Cornwall at the 3 Wishes Faery Fest, Holifair, Penryn Town Fair and at a number of birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations. The exposure generated a lot of interest and a lot of new members.
As Simon Evans explains: "Our success as a band brought us a lot of interest and lots of new members, and we just didn't have enough instruments to go round, certainly not enough drums. We knew we had to do something and that's when we turned to the Lottery Fund's Awards for All.
"We first applied over a year ago, but it's been worth the effort because we now have lots of new drums and bells, shakers, sticks, straps and cases, too. And although there's a few of us who have enough experience with music and samba to lead practices and performances, none of us are trained samba instructors. So, the four professional workshops that the grant also enables us to receive will be invaluable in terms of keeping us honed and trimmed as samba players."
There have been a number of highlights over the last two years, from the rapturous applause after the dbut gig to being invited back to play at festivals. But the Awards for All grant is possibly the biggest highlight of all as it secures Penrhythm's immediate and longer-term future.
For further information call (01326 373316, www.penrhythm.co.uk
With thanks to David Bate for information and photos.