Sunday, 7 August 2016

Two Appearances on the BBC in one week!

They say that lighting doesn't strike twice, but Favela Brass has just appeared on the BBC two times within the space of three days!

The first was playing own samba version of "Chariots of Fire right at the end of BBC One's primetime program "Countdown to Rio", which ran from 8:30pm to 10pm, before the opening ceremony of the Olympics:

And then the second was a piece specifically about our project this morning on BBC Breakfast, which is broadcast simultaneously on BBC One and BBC News:

It's an amazing moment for the project and we're all incredibly happy that the Olympics really did provide us with opportunity that we were all hoping for in terms of spreading the word about our project.

The task now is to find a way to convert all of this fantastic publicity into music lessons for our kids.

On that note, if anyone who hasn't done so already would like to contribute financially, our Just Giving page will remain open for the duration of the Olympics. All pounds/dollars/euros donated are much appreciated and will go a long way.

Thanks guys!

Thursday, 4 August 2016

An Olympic Dream Come True?

This time last year we had absolutely no links with the Olympics. No contacts, no shows, no nothing. Then our French percussion teacher Yann Vathelet had an idea:

"No, but wait, maybe the fact that you guys don't have anything IS your Olympic story, maybe it's all about the struggle of the kids and the teachers to get included in the Olympics over the next year."

So we set ourselves a concrete goal and shared it openly with the children: we were going to try to get Favela Brass involved in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We shared videos about our objective, got out in streets playing shows and publicising it, and pestered all of our contacts mercilessly.

The idea was that either way the kids would hopefully gain a valuable life lesson from the experience: if we didn't get it, the kids would learn that having a dream and working hard towards it is worth it, even if it doesn't come about exactly as you had planned - because even without the opening ceremony all that training and playing in public had to take us somewhere. On the other hand if we did make it, it would teach the children that if you really go for stuff, there's a good chance you will make it.

As it happened, we didn't make the opening ceremony of the Olympics. So we regrouped and came up with a plan to take the project to the streets with an program of 16 shows in 16 days for Rio 2016. We didn't get the opening ceremony, but we weren't going to be left out.

Then on Tuesday I received a message from my friend, Curry Clube regular and top-flight journalist Donna Bowater:

"Beeb producer just got in touch asking for contacts for the "great Favela Brass" that I have on my Instagram." (referring, presumably to a short video that Donna posted of our recent unpaid public performance outside the Museum of Tomorrow in Rio's city centre)

Contact was indeed made, and today the BBC filmed a clip of our children playing the same tune in various locations. It was an extremely proud day for me. The kids played absolutely out of their skins and I think it's fair to say that the team from the beeb were suitably impressed.

Towards the end of the day I popped the question: "So, when and where exactly will this air?" - I was expecting something on the lines of "Well, we might need some standby material for BBC Alba between 4am and 5am next Monday morning..." so the actual answer took me aback:

"It's for the end of the BBC 1 show tomorrow night for the opening of the Olympics - because of the time difference, the opening ceremony starts at midnight in the UK so not that many people will watch it. Your bit will go on just before 10pm so you'll probably hit a much bigger audience."

Many are the slip between cup and lip. The material still has to be edited in time and it presumably has to be approved, but there is now a good chance that the BBC's prime time 8:30pm "Countdown to Rio" show tomorrow night will end with our kids playing a familiar Olympics-related tune to their own uniquely Brazilian beat. That for me would be even better than us participating in the opening ceremony.

Of course it may not happen. Even if it doesn't I'm still immensely proud of the kids, and we'll make our mark on the Olympics whatever.

...but wouldn't it be nice?

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Mardi Gras 2016 - Thank You!!!

Great news! The The Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Mardi Gras 2016 has raised £4385, smashing last year's total and making a HUGE contribution to our ability to sustain Favela Brass. This is an ABSOLUTELY MASSIVE boost to the project!

Not only that, the Stompers also managed to secure a donation of 3 plastic trumpets (pTrumpets) and 2 plastic trombones (pBones) from Warwick music - with a total UK value of £835. That means that all told a value of £5,220 was raised for the project - an amazing feat! (and donations are still trickling in)

Favela Brass has had quite a bit of media attention recently, and a variation of the same question generally comes up every time: "how does a Yorkshire man end up running a music school for kids in a favela in Rio de Janeiro?" It seems a bit bizarre at first glance, but there is a link.

I benefited from a great music education, courtesy of Doncaster Music Service and Doncaster Youth Jazz Association and have come to realize, even more with hindsight, the incredible value of music education for children, whatever their background - both for the children involved and for their local communities.

That is what eventually led me to start a music school in a favela and I have no doubt that it is exactly the same feeling that inspired the 8 professional musician friends that make up the Sandhouse Stompers to clear two weeks of their diary to walk and play their way across the UK to raise money for Favela Brass, and inspired such a generous response from our donors.

On behalf of the children, teachers and families of the Favela Brass, then, I would like to thank the walkers, the special guests, all who helped along the way, all those who kindly donated and came along to support the walkers during their shows, all who helped to arrange the pre and post-walk fundraisers, UK charity Volunteer in Brazil for their support, and especially Stuart Garside for creating and organizing the whole event. This really will make a HUGE difference!

Some debts of gratitude are impossible to repay, and this clearly falls under that category. The best I can do is run Favela Brass to the best of my ability and see that the money is used in the best possible way to provide the kind of opportunity that we had to a group of Brazilian children who sorely need it.

I only hope that the story of Favela Brass can one day justice to your generosity.

Thank you all,


Saturday, 16 July 2016

Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Stomp 2016

To donate to the Sandhouse Stompers Coast to Coast Stomp 2016, please visit our Just Giving page:

Following the success of last year's event, which raised £4,064 for Favela Brass, in just 4 days' time the Sandhouse Stompers are going to do it all over again, with the support of Lancaster-based UK charity Volunteer in Brazil. From the Sandhouse Stompers Facebook Page:

"On the 20th July 2016, 9 intrepid explorers, musicians, friends, aka The Sandhouse Stompers will be embarking upon a 2nd epic journey. From West coast to East coast, Morecambe to Whitby, over 9 days, this musical troupe will be walking, busking, grumbling, serenading, eating and drinking their way across the country...

We hope to raise as much money as possible for Favela Brass through sponsorship, musical performances and impromptu busking en-route, but we need your help! If you can offer us a field to pitch our tents, can provide us with pies or frosty libations, we would love to hear from you. If you want to walk with us, play with us or rattle some collection boxes for us you are more than welcome to join us."

Here is a list of the shows that the Stompers will be playing along the way:

20th July The Black Bull at Bentham
21st July Knights Satinforth
21nd July Victoria Hall, Settle
22rd July Foresters Arms, Grassington
23rd July The Crown Inn, Pately Bridge
24th July The One Eyed Rat, Ripon
25th July Thrisk Royal British Legion
26th July Helmsley Brewing Co.
27th July Coach House Inn, Rosedale
28th July Abbey Wharf, Whitby

The Sandhouse Stompers are (from left to right):

Mark Ellis (Sax)
Gareth Smith (Trumpet)
Paul Grady (Trumpet)
Neil Morley (Trumpet)
Stuart Garside (Trombone)
Mark Kerrigan (Drums)
Jim Stretton (Tuba)
Rowena Smith (Trombone)

Even before the walk has started the Stompers have already managed to secure a donation from the instrument manufacturer pBone of 2 plastic trombones and 3 plastic trumpets, which will be winging their way over Rio and into the hands of our students shortly - what an amazing start to a fantastic fundraising initiative!

A huge thank you also to UK Charity Volunteer in Brazil for supporting this event.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Favela Brass on BBC World Service

A big thank you to Benjie Guy and Jon Bithrey for coming to visit our show last weekend and producing this lovely piece about us in the run up to the Olympics.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Vintage Fair in Doncaster

Great news - yesterday's Vintage Fair at the Doncaster Jazz Centre raised £390 for Favela Brass!

From everyone at Favela Brass we would like to say a huge thank you to Jane Miles, Stuart Garside & the Sandhouse Stompers and all of those involved in making it a success.

Favela Brass is completely dependent on these kind of initiatives, they are what allow us to continue our work, and we cannot thank those who dedicate their time and energy to making them happen enough. The money raised will now be used to purchase 100 Favela Brass T-Shirts for sale on the upcoming Coast to Coast Mardi Gras with the Sandhouse Stompers.

What a cracking result !!

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Favela Brass in a New Orleans Groove

The healthy evolution of live music depends, and has always depended, on the mixture of existing traditions. Both jazz and samba emerged from the musical melting pot, combining styles which had extremely widely dispersed geographical roots. A central objective of the Favela Brass project is to teach our children the musical traditions of Rio de Janeiro and of New Orleans, hopefully laying the ground for the creation of new musical combinations further down the line

To that end, we recently hired a new teacher, French professional jazz drummer Emile Saubole, with a very specific mission - to research and analyse the traditional and more modern New Orleans brass band rhythms and pass this knowledge on to the children. The result of this focused teaching was evident yesterday during our show at the Junta Local food fair, where the children absolutely nailed the authentic New Orleans swing, playing the rhythms of a musical tradition that until now was pretty much unknown in Brazil as if it was the most natural thing in the world.