Issue 127: Samba compositions

I’ve been giving some thought on how to add a composition element to the Wider Opportunities samba classes I have been teaching.

I’ve just six more sessions for one class, before we do a final “end-of-year” presentation.

I am planning to divide up the class into four samba bands (there are 43 children in the group), each with a couple of surdos, tamborims, ganzas, agogo bells and boomwhackers (which we have been using all year to augment the basic samba kit). The bands will then devise their own sambas, creating their own rhythms for each section, and maybe incorporating introductions, breaks and endings.

Obviously this is going to create an impossible level of racket and cacophony in the rather small and echoing school hall, but I am hoping that with the better weather we will be able to work out of doors in the playground (I hope none of the neighbours are on night shift).

For preparation, I will do some work where I will give sections new and random rhythms to play, based on short phrases; for example “Mo Farah, running a marathon” or “Pizza, pizza, sausage and chips” or whatever comes to mind. Then each section can work together to devise their own rhythm, within a clearly defined pulse framework, so that they understand that the phrase has to fit into four beats. In order to develop independence in playing a rhythm, I will get the children to work in pairs to create and play another rhythmic phrase.

We can all play as a whole class at the same time at this stage of the preparatory work, and once all these phases have been completed, the four samba bands should be in a position to create and learn to perform their own sambas.

The children in this group come from two classes with wildly different topics, otherwise I would have suggested that they use their topic as a basis for the composition.

Hint; when doing “individual” composition work with large classes and noisy instruments in small halls, confiscate ALL sticks and beaters and tell the children to play their instruments with their fingers while they are practising. That keeps the number of decibels down to just about bearable levels.


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