In the late 90s when most people were raving or bopping to the Spice Girls, a group of visionaries were drumming out the sound of samba street music from Paisley Arts Centre as part of an arts project by Joe Pieraccini.
Following a successful run of workshops – a band named SambaYaBamba was formed in 1997.
SYB was quick to build connections and networks with like-minded individuals locally and further afield, with 1998 seeing the band perform in its first of many massed bands at the West End Festival. In this year, we were also joined by Greg, who later returned to Toulouse inspired to set-up the highly successful Samba Resille, whose youth group performed at our Encontro in 2017.
In 1999, SYB made the move to Glasgow, setting up home in the legendary Art School and had capacity to run more beginners’ workshops and expand the band. The turn of the century saw some important moments for SYB that contributed to our growth and longevity.
In 2000, a certain Roddy Dickson saw a flyer on an electricity box for the workshops and – having received a set of bongos for Christmas – thought he’d go along and learn to play them. By the end of the year, SYB had developed it first original tune and it was not long until Roddy was Musical Director. 18 years later, Roddy is still MD and more than any other individual has made the band the mighty force it is today - and (since bongos are Cuban and not involved in samba at all) he is still waiting to learn the bongos!
Funded by running the popular Bêbado club night, in 2003 Doug, Roddy, Ge, Malcolm and Angus travelled to Rio, Salvador and Recife in 2003 and brought back first hand knowledge of how things are in the home of samba, influencing and shaping our sound forever. This trip paved the way for many of our future members to travel to and play in Brazil over the years strengthening our bond with the Brazilian ways.
For the next few years, SYB continued to gig across Glasgow and the UK, expanding our repertoire and fanbase in equal measure and in 2004 (thanks to former member Greg) played our first foreign gig in Pennautier in the South of France along with TESS, making bonds that are still strong today.
A major opportunity arose when organisers of Brighton Samba Encontro had seen a spark in us and wanted to know how we would approach a slot in the Showcase. The band put heads together and came up with an ambitious plan to raise our game for the occasion. It worked beautifully - we raised the roof and the bar stayed high forever more. The following year at Cardiff Samba Encounter SYB decided to cover Killing in the Name and sent the crowd into an absolute frenzy. This was the first outing in kilts and carnival which has stuck ever since.
An jaw-dropping stage performance from Brighton Carnival Collective directed by mestre Pat Power, touched SYB deeply and influenced their sound again. This could be why in 2005, it was agreed that a brass section would be added to the band, with a series of workshops from Marcus Britton. A decision that has allowed SYB to stand out and experiment with different musical fusions and styles over the years.
2005 also marked SYB’s first time attending and performing at Coburg Samba Festival in Germany – a highlight in members’ samba calendars every year (and crowds are always delighted to see our kilts). In the autumn we played live on the BBC Craig Hill show at Queen Margaret Drive.
In 2006 the band recorded it's first CD or original material entitled 'Mad Bongos n That' (a reference to something overheard) - still available on Spotify and all the rest. The CD was a major undertakng, recorded close miked in the Glasgow Barrowlands studio. Vocal tracks 'Gie's Yer Jaiket, 'Shatner's Bassoon' and 'Cutla Cans' featured rappers Tam and Lenny who took to the drums very well and became full members of the band in no time.
That same year a call from Brazilian O Globo journalist put us in touch with Brazil's only Pipe Band who were coming over from Sao Paulo to play in the Worlds. We arrange to meet up and got on like a house on fire despite being weird mirror images of each other. Them daft for whisky and us crazy for caipirinhas! We hooked up with the Kelburn grafitti project and played gigs together there while they were around. Keburn was being painted by Os Gemeos, Nunca and Nina who very kindly decorated one of our third surdos for us at the time - still a prized posession.
2008 saw the extremely ambitious Euro-Odyssey. A string of gig requests meant we'd be in Tolouse one weekend and Coburg the next. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss and the band set about planning a bus tour of Europe taking in Toulouse, Lake Como, Munich and Coburg. Needless to say it was monumental.
In the coming years, SYB continued to develop a solid repertoire of original tunes and established itself as a band that could excite and entertain crowds at a vast range of gigs and festivals. The band’s make-up further developed when our dance section was added in 2012 and the Think Pink Charity Ball of this year marked the first time the band performed with all three of the sections we are now known for.
Since 2012, the band has consistently diversified our musical influences and spectrum of gigs – from flashmobs and busks and stage sets in front of thousands. In 2015 a new and exciting project was born which has changed the SYB family forever. Bringing a long-term goal of the band to fruition, Gaynor Milne started the applications for funding for an SYB Youth Band and within 12 months the band was born. The SambaYaBamba Youth Street Band has become a musical force in its own right, with its 40 members gigging regularly and collaborating and performing with musicians from all over the world.
In 2017, we entered our 20th year and, as is the SYB way, we did not do so quietly. We hosted the first Glasgow Street Band Encontro Festival, welcoming dozens of bands and hundreds of musicians to our home city to perform and provide an outstanding and dynamic experience to all involved. We also held our biggest ever beginners’ workshop with 74 people attending and playing at this now legendary evening. The Encontro got even bigger and better in 2018, when we performed on the massive stage on George Square as part of the European Championships cultural celebrations, and the youth band debuted their international collaboration Dodgy Carpet Carnival. We even brought the incredible Banda Alana over from Sao Paolo, Brazil.
The story continues – planning for Encontro 2019 is underway, the first youth band members have joined the ‘adult’ SYB band, and the beginners’ workshops get busier each year.