How this Swanmore samba band is connecting with music around the world

Bands big and small, have had to be extremely creative in the past year.
Swan Samba members in the toilet roll challenge during the first lockdown.Swan Samba members in the toilet roll challenge during the first lockdown.
Swan Samba members in the toilet roll challenge during the first lockdown.

With lockdown limiting how many people can meet and for what purpose, many musical organisations have been forced to think outside the box.

And that’s exactly what Swan Samba – the drumming, dancing and Brazilian arts organisation in Swanmore – have done. Since the group formed in 2019, they have learnt the rhythms and beats of samba fusion. Despite lockdown, they have continued to learn and perform over Zoom, drumming on the backs of chairs or their own instruments to create music virtually.

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‘When the pandemic first hit, we didn’t know how to transfer it online. But we started Zoom sessions and really improved our presence on social media to keep people engaged,’ says founder Gary Munday, from Bishop’s Waltham.

Swan Samba at Romsey Carnival.Swan Samba at Romsey Carnival.
Swan Samba at Romsey Carnival.

Gary, with his wife Sarah, also run the Roynon Performing Arts School in Swanmore which inspired him to set up Swan Samba initially. ‘I am a guitar music teacher by trade and also play bass guitar. I work for a music service so go into several schools in the area to teach,’ explains Gary, 41.

Pre-pandemic, Swan Samba used to meet every Tuesday to practice. When lockdown first struck in March last year, a couple of members bought their own drums and Gary moved all of his teaching online. He says: ‘Not all of our members can read music and we have a wide age range starting from 11, so I have used other tools such as Youtube videos, a Dropbox of resources and learning beats through numbers.’

In the past year, Swan Samba has continued to perform and learn virtually, as well as taking part in local challenges, such as drumming with toilet rolls; creating beats for the Clap for Carers and fundraising for Children in Need.

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But thanks to The Axé Samba Collective (ASC) – a global network to support and collaborate with artists, drummers, dancers and teachers founded by Gary in 2020 – Swan Samba has also collaborated with groups in Argentina, Portugal, Canada and Spain. Gary explains: ‘The ASC was set up in the hope of supporting a wider range of players, artists and teachers and giving members of our band a unique way of learning and collaborating.

Swan Samba member Rosie Matthews performing in the first lockdown.Swan Samba member Rosie Matthews performing in the first lockdown.
Swan Samba member Rosie Matthews performing in the first lockdown.

‘Some well-known samba names have set up bands in different countries and therefore have a network by default. As we don’t have that and we’re a small, new band we wanted to set up something that crosses over independent bands and offer a free means of inspiration, support and promotion. We use the term “samba family” as that’s exactly what it is.

‘Our quarantine challenge was where different bands from around the world learnt a tricky batucada song online by ear for Samba Swing, based in Canada.’

The hope for the future is that these groups will be able to collaborate in person. ‘It’d be incredible to learn each other’s grooves and songs and form collaboration acts to perform at gigs,’ adds Gary.

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Bands currently involved in the ASC include Samba Swing in Toronto, Canada; Nahuel Chalquian and La 14 Bis, Argentina; Batukacio in Barcelona, Spain and Borumbaia, Zurich – to name but a few. ‘We’ve also had shared sessions with Katumba in Liverpool during lockdown,’ says Gary. ‘Axé is all about the energy that binds us together and this is really central in a lot of drumming.’

Band member Lynn Jay drumming virtually for the Learning In Lockdown project.Band member Lynn Jay drumming virtually for the Learning In Lockdown project.
Band member Lynn Jay drumming virtually for the Learning In Lockdown project.

Being a part of Swan Samba, and therefore ASC too, has given its members an opportunity to connect and learn while giving them something to look forward to each week. ‘I joined Swan Samba back in summer 2020,’ says Matt McGill, a design engineer from Southampton. ‘It’s nice for me to meet other people. It’s not intimidating at all and everyone is so friendly.’

James and Julie Turner, from Curdridge, have been members of Swan Samba since Easter 2019. James, 55, says: ‘I have always found samba music infectious. I thought it was a golden opportunity to get involved.

‘The different beats of the music are divided into groups of two or three. If you go wrong, the whole band knows about it but it isn’t pressurising or intimidating, it’s actually a lot of fun. We have continued to join the Zooms throughout lockdown, me drumming on the back of a chair and Julie using an electric pad.

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‘I am a lawyer so it’s very fun to be able to focus on something else at the end of the day. Even by drumming in front of a camera in your living room, you completely let go of everything and it’s very enjoyable.’

Jo Harvey drumming in her gardenJo Harvey drumming in her garden
Jo Harvey drumming in her garden

Alongside her daughter Immee, Jo Harvey has found a new lease of life thanks to Swan Samba. Throughout her life, Jo has always been very shy and despite loving samba music, she was too nervous to join a band until her daughter Immee, 22, offered to go with her.

Now, both of them are loving creating music together and with the wider band over Zoom, which has in turn strengthened their mother-daughter bond. Jo, 55, says: ‘Immee was my support to join the group and now she loves it too. I have had to deal with mental health issues in the past but samba music made me feel alive for the first time in ages.’

Now the group can’t wait to make music together again once restrictions lift. Jo, who is an artist, explains: ‘I’m so glad I still do it over Zoom because I always feel so much better afterwards. It’s been amazing for Immee and I. We were always close but the samba sessions and gigs gives us both a chance to step away from the day-to-day problems and do something together.’

For more information about Swan Samba, go to

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