Starting a Band

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So you feel like having a go at your own bit of tactical frivolity? Here are some hints and tips for forming your own RoR band. We like to help you!

No matter at which state of the founding of your RoR band you are, feel free to ask us for help! The first step could be to get in contact with us, so that we can look if a band can visit you and give you an introductionary workshop. Here, you can find all the information about already existing bands.

If you’re still on your own, and you don’t really know how to get more people to join you, you can organize a first contact meeting in your city. Make leaflets with the time and place of this meeting on them, as well as a little text to convince people to join you (e.g. “Tired of going to boring manifestations and not seeing any results? You want to really start acting but you don’t know where to start? Come to … !”) On this meeting, you can give a starting workshop about RoR and about samba (sambistas from other bands can come to your city to help you with this!). This is a great opportunity to really get started with a lot of motivation. On that meeting, you can also think together with your new sambistas of a date and place for the first rehearsal!

Many of the bands that form the RoR network today started off like this. But still, we want to give you some practical tips here, in case you don’t have someone giving them to you in real life.

Gather Instruments

Proper samba instruments aren’t cheap (although you can sometimes get good deals on the web and from specialist suppliers) but having no instruments is no excuse!!! Some bands started off as a junk band – why not do the same? We’ve put together some suggestions for improvising samba drums. Check out our DIY Instruments page!

Find a rehearsal place

Try to find an indoor room with acoustic isolation, although it’s not always possible. Asking a social center or a squat is a good thing. Some bands don’t find a regular rehearsal place, so they go in a park. In this case, try to avoid bothering people living nearby, inform about the noise tolerance and be prepared to deal with security services. When winter comes, it becomes really difficult to rehearse outside but some bands managed to do so. Just be sure you bring some warm clothes (especially gloves) and hot drinks. Playing late far away from residential sites should be ok concerning loudness, so some place in an industrial area could also be good.

Get familiarised with the Hand Signals

A samba band has 2 elements – the musicians and the mestr@ (or conduct@r). The mestr@s lead the groove by using signals to call for breaks, bringing in or stopping instruments and changing the pace of the groove. Bands in the RoR network all try to use the same signals so that we can all learn the same tunes internationally, and can play together when we meet up as a big band at actions, demonstrations etc. Wander over to the Tunes section for a closer look!

Then, learn some tunes and dances

Once you have your instruments, it’s time to learn some tunes. Head over to the Tunes and Dances section of the website for notations. Print them out and have a go. Start with some easy tunes as Kalashnikov, Funk or Angela Davis and try to enlarge your repertoire little by little. In the beginning, it is good to familiarize with one instrument at a time. But try to quickly learn as much as you can, so the band will be able to play without relying on any specific person. Take rounds and switch instruments so that every person learns different instruments.

The same counts for maestrating: it’s better if as many members as possible learn to maestrate from the beginning. Like that the band doesn’t depend on one person for its participation in actions, and it’s more democratic. With only one person as a mestr@, it might become difficult to avoid invisible hierarchies after a while!

Also important: don’t forget hearing protection!!! Wear ear protection at all times when you’re playing. It feels weird at first, and you have to rely on hand signals a lot more, but you’ll get used to it after a while. Better that than permanently damaging your hearing. You can get foam ones pretty cheaply from builders’ merchants, motor bike shops etc, but until then cotton wool balls or clean (wet) toilet paper works. DO NOT WAIT until your ears are ringing – by that time it’s way too late!

Organize

To participate or organize any demos, actions, etc. you will have to hold meetings. A lot of bands make a plenary after or before the rehearsal. Some choose to hold it on another day. It’s up to your possibilities, but make sure you have time to talk for example about struggles within the band and organize actions etc. and not only play music. All bands have set their own E-Mail lists. It’s always better to choose a non-commercial mail host (here are some suggestions)

Tactical frivolity

As the Rhythms of Resistance network of samba bands grew out of the “Pink/ Silver” bloc at the anti-G8 demos of the 1990s which employed “tactical frivolity” as their method, many RoR bands wear pink, normally with other colours mixed in (pink and black, pink and silver). Many of the European bands opt for bright funky colours like green, orange or yellow. Others bands choose to dress in black. Dressing up is always fun. Raid charity shops, free shops, costume and accessory shops. Pick a colour, get yourself some outrageous outfits and party!!!