Our History


From 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.

early success!

The 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.

The teens

A very busy time for the Sambanistas with lots of fun costumes and floats! This period has lots of photos as the convenience of digital cameras captured these colorful images from our teenage years.

'Mon’ the giant inflatable lobster float
“Mon” the giant inflatable lobster float (made by Mike W) in 2003
Joondalup 2006
Joondalup 2006
Freo Festival 2005
Freo Festival 2005
Red Costumes
Bright Red Costumes!

Our 20th Birthday

100 Drums for 20 years

The 20’s

In 2012, we started our dedicated Sambanistas Dancer troupe with their official performance at Sunset Samba in 2013. The dancers added a Rio flair with fantastic Samba no pé style of dance

AND NOW… Our 30th year!

We’ve already started with a huge show at Fringe and we’re looking forward to a big year of gigs and celebrations, so watch this space!