Samba Galez started up in 1989, in a Youth Project premises in Charles Street, Cardiff. Initially it was a project organised by South Wales Intercultural Arts, an organisation set up to promote community performance arts projects, and the band was called the Cardiff School of Samba, or Samba Gales (with an S). Originally the practices took place on a Sunday afternoon, starting at 4 pm, which was a great time because the pubs shut at 3 on Sundays in those days and didn’t re-open until 7. This dead space on a Sunday was perfect for making a row, especially in the city centre where nobody could hear. At first the sessions were open to anybody who showed up, but after a while this proved to be a bit of a failure, because people who had been coming for a while couldn’t progress because there were always new people trying to pick up the basics.

So, after a great deal of soul-searching about inclusivity, the band split itself into the current Saturday workshops for experienced sambistas, with access courses for new members to get up to speed before joining the main band. Eventually, Samba Galez became successful enough to become independent of SWICA and change its name to Samba Galez (with a Z) – mainly because we tended to be announced as “Samba Gails”. Since none of us were actually called Gail…

Now the band has around 80 members, and plays 30 to 40 gigs a year, as well as impromptu busking in Cardiff city centre (usually outside the Old Library on the Hayes). We have a great social life together, with various sub-groups forming to go cycling, hiking, playing music, or just hanging out together. Some band members have gone on to join other bands and earn money for banging drums, but most just enjoy the Saturday workshops and gigs. Under the leadership of professional musician Simon Preston, the band has progressed musically to the point where it has appeared frequently on television, and appeared in the short film Samba Paloma (recently screened again at Chapter Arts Centre as part of a season of Welsh films). The band has also produced two CDs, with more in the pipeline.