Freo goes Rio

• Wasamba on a recent visit to Sydney: opera, who needs opera when you have samba?

• Wasamba on a recent visit to Sydney: opera, who needs opera when you have samba?

Little old ladies rushed to turn off hearing aids and Perth CBD shop keepers—fearing a riot was underway—hastily shut their doors as WA’s first samba band Sambanistas noisily paraded through the city 24 years ago.

The City of Perth banned the group from entering the capital.

“We were banned at least three times, while I was [musical director],” Richie Glasgow tells the Herald.

Not much was known about Brazilian samba music at the time and the outlandish costumes and loud percussion were looked at askance.

But when the band took to the streets for the (now-defunct) Northbridge festival hundreds danced in the street, much to the chagrin of organisers.

Police were called in to head things off: “If that happened in the UK the first thing would be the police car would be turned over, then the [shops] would be turned over, and then there would be a riot,” Glasgow sighs, wistfully.

But this was laid-back Perth and the coppers simply herded the band into the cultural centre where the party continued for a bit longer.

These days WA has six samba groups and all regard Glasgow as the man who made it all happen.

He moved to NSW a few years ago but is back in town at the end of the month for the first Samba Summit—a gathering of the clans in Fremantle that will showcase their various styles.

“It’s well overdue,” he says. “There’s been an incredible cross pollination between the groups.”

Wasamba musical director Ben Bowtell is the man behind the summit, having kicked the idea around with Sambanistas MD, simply known as Rambo in the samba world.

“It’s a chance to see all the other groups perform, because we are always in the same parades,” Bowtell says.

A modest show had originally been envisioned but the response has been extraordinary.

“We hoped to get to where we are now as a five-year plan,” Bowtell says.

With Rio gearing up to host the Olympics in 2016, the world is set to go mad for everything Brazil—a country of 200 million people that’s slated to be a superpower of the 21st century.

The Samba Summit is a chance for locals to learn a little about Brazilian culture ahead of the global crowd.

Brazil WA has thrown its support behind the summit, a Queensland music shop donated more than $1000 in equipment as prizes, and Mega Music in Myaree came on board as a major sponsor.

There’ll be performances by the various samba bands—Wasamba, Beleza, Sambanistas, Bassonovas, Bloco Do Norte and the Rio Margaritas (up from Margaret River)—and Perth’s only government school samba band, hailing from Ellenbrook, will also perform.

Samba dancers in traditional Brazilian costumes will strut their stuff on stage, DJs will keep the pace rolling between sets, and Brazilian singer Juliana Areias will perform alongside the cool sounds of Perth Samba Social Club.

There’ll be stalls full of samba-associated gear and musical equipment and crowds can try traditional Brazilian barbecue, sip on Brazil’s national cocktail caipirinha, made with sugar cane liquor, sugar and lime, or imbibe an icy brew.

The Samba Summit is open to everyone, any age, who has a little bit of samba in their toes. It’s on at the Fremantle Town Hall, Sunday March 30, 5.30–10pm.

Tixs $20 at thesambasummit.com or facebook.com/thesambasummit 

Disclaimer: Jenny D’Anger is a long-time member of Wasamba.

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