About Us


The Sambanistas are a not-for-profit community group, which means that anyone can join us. No musical experience is required. If you fancy coming along and giving it a go, just bring yourself and a smile!

In return for low-cost tuition and training, our members volunteer their time and energy into making the group run smoothly. Teaching workshops, repairing instruments, making costumes, transporting drums to and from gigs, organising social activities, talking to prospective clients – it’s all done for the love of Sambanistas!

Unfortunately, some things require cold hard cash, and we earn this by performing at some of the most exciting festivals, events and parties that Perth has to offer (not exactly what you might call a hardship!)

Some of the gigs that we’ve played at in the past include the Fairbridge Festival, various parties at Little Creatures, major fundraisers at Burswood, and international conferences at the Perth Convention Centre. We have travelled to Cue, Kalgoorlie, Wagin, Mandurah, Dongara, Esperance and many other locations. You will see us parading in all the best community festivals that happen each year, such as the Freo Arts Festival, Pride Parade, the Christmas Pageant, the Joondalup Festival and heaps more.

If you love drums, could do with a bit more fun in your life, and are keen to hang out with a group of friendly people from all walks of life and of all ages then the Sambanistas might just be what you’re looking for.

Our History

IMG_3235From the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, a community arts group emerged in Perth, named the Ran Dan Club. The group ran a circus project and a unique final act was proposed to close each performance – samba! The director was very keen on the Paul Simon album  ‘Rhythm of the Saints’. Recorded with Olodum in 1988, this album is often credited with starting the ‘world music’ movement. A drummer named Richy Glasgow was recruited to run 6 public workshops to train budding samba drummers, at no charge to the participants.

Perth’s first homegrown samba gig took place within the Ran Dan Club’s performance for Artrage 1990. Approximately 24 drummers took part, billed as “The World’s Biggest Samba Band”. The drummers also played in the circus show, known as “Bizircus”. Perth’s passion for samba was born, and over the summer of 1990 – 1991, the original players continued rehearsing under Richy’s tutelage, in Perth’s cultural heart in the building now housing the Blue Room theatre, next door to PICA.

The group progressed to entering a buskers’ competition and then, with a strong contingent of 44 drummers, played at the Chung Wah Multicultural Day at the Perth Entertainment Centre. The identity of the group was evolving, and the name “Sambanistas” was chosen, a corruption of “ Sandanista!”, the title of an album released by English punk rock band The Clash and originally, the revolutionary movement of Nicaragua. Many members were local drummers and musicians, who contributed their own drums from drum kits, as there were no Brazilian instruments available in Perth at the time. A series of plastic-shelled surdos and tamborims were produced by Peter Keelan, and his group AC/PVC, who created instruments from plastic building products.

This weird and wonderful display was accompanied by non-drumming dancers, performing the “Nutbush” dance sequence in the middle of the fixed samba batucada arrangement with breaks being performed by Sambanistas at the time.

The first paid gig of the Sambanistas was at the Kalamunda ZIGZAG festival. However it was the street party at the Northbridge Festival on 1st March, 1991 that confirmed the undeniable place of Sambanistas in Perth’s music scene. At 11.30pm, 80 drummers assembled in the Cultural Centre and paraded through Northbridge and waves of revellers, to the main stage outside “The Deen” on Aberdeen Street. By this point, a dancing crowd of several hundred was ready to accompany the band into William Street, stopping the traffic, and returning to the Cultural Centre for a further hour and a half. This was backed up by another gig, the CAA Walk Against Want, the very next day.

IMG_0013The group continued to grow over the following year and incorporated a number of specialist workshops by professional players, including introducing pandeiro, and built cuicas. Over the summer of 1991 – 1992, Sambanistas ran simultaneous workshops north and south of the river and built up the group to 200 members for the 1992 Northbridge Parade. The originator, Richy Glasgow, was now working between 2 and 3 days a week on band activities and the decision was made to hand over to a nominated committee. Over the next two seasons, Richy returned only to run the Northbridge Festival project, and then left Perth for overseas. Sadly during the mid-nineties, the group faltered due to committee disputes.

In the late nineties, Chris Burn resurrected Sambanistas and recruited Ken Allan. Ken administered the group and Sambanistas returned to the streets of Perth in 2000 for the 10th Anniversary Party of Artrage, with a contingent of 120 players.

Sambanistas flourishes to this day, with a regular playing group of approximately 30 and featuring at Perth’s Pride Parade, Joondalup Festival and Fremantle Festival, amongst others. The growth of Perth’s multicultural and non-profit community has seen the number of community events featuring the Sambanistas grow, for the benefit of fans and players in our city.


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