5th May 2000 at 01:00
A fortnight in the life of Braziliant, Oldham community samba band

Tourism it wasn't. For two weeks the 26 drummers stayed in a village with no electricity or running water and only very basic food, sleeping three to a room while they learnt the secrets of the "djembe", a west African drum. The Oldham Community Samba Band had been fundraising for 18 months for their trip to the Gambia. Their ages range from seven to over 50 and two-thirds of them come from schools and colleges in Oldham, Lancashire. Among them is Ruth Eversley, who by day is head of English at Failsworth, a large comprehensive in Oldham. "We had to collect water every day from a pump and the only lighting was by storm lamps. The poverty was in your face. It was a real eye-opener for many of the pupils," she says. But it was also an adventure. Every morning they had a two-hour drumming workshop in the shade of the mango trees, and in the afternoons they visited the crocodile park or the beach, or went shopping in the market. Those who wanted relief from the basic life in Manjai Kunda could make use of the swimming pools in the tourist hotels. The Oldham band started nearly five years ago and nrmally plays Latin American music. They went to west Africa because that's where the rhythms they play originated. They take part in carnivals in their area and performed in Manchester over the Easter weekend. They have also played at the Millennium Dome in London and have been invited back in June.

Snaps by Ruth Eversley

Running water is promised soon

No electricity and no running water: Steph, Kayleigh and Ruth do the washing up

Smiling comes later: Cyra, Anna, Kate and Emmy learning hard

Wind up: Mariama and Hawa braid Kayleigh's hair

A snappy shot: at the Katchikali Sacred Crocodile Farm. The drummers were told it was perfectly safe to stroke them, so they did

Beach drums: Ibrahim from Drumdance gives Sue and Emmy some practice on the beach

John from Drumdance, organisers of the trip, shows Emmy how to tighten a djembe

Zhoke and daughter Katie from African Ballet, a dance troupe from the Gambia

A fortnight in the life of Braziliant, Oldham community samba band Anyone interested in following in the band's footsteps should contact: Diane Vickers, Drumdance, 11 Bank Road, Lancaster LA1 2DG. Tel: 01624.

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