They create the soundtracks to some of Kirklees’ biggest events.
And this year Huddersfield’s Slick Stick Sambastic drumming group are celebrating their 10th season in action as the area’s only troupe of its kind.
Examiner reporter Chloe Glover joined them to strike up a tune at their practice room at the University of Huddersfield where they hope to welcome new recruits to celebrate their milestone.
A blizzard would have stopped most musicians in their tracks.
But not so for Huddersfield’s Slick Stick Sambastic members, who have drummed on in the worst Pennine weather conditions due to their enthusiasm for their sound.
The deep winter bi-annual Imbolc fire festival on Marsden Moor is just one of the places hardy revellers will have heard their invigorating beats that are inspired by music in Brazil, where the genre, which involves the playing of various drums and percussion, originates from.
Slaithwaite’s Moonraking Festival, Huddersfield Carnival and St Patrick’s Day parades and Gawthorpe Maypole Festival are some of the other landmark community events where the group has incited mass dancing since they formed in 2005 out of a group of local people intrigued by the uplifting performance style.
“We are all about playing live,” said percussionist Brian Cross, one of the founding members and a percussionist of the currently 10 strong group who meet every Tuesday evening from 7.30pm to 9.30pm in the university’s Creative Arts Building.
“We get energy back from people’s responses. It really livens the street and the spirit.
“Once, when we were playing in Huddersfield town centre a parkour (freerunning using buildings) group heard us and started performing stunts near to us with the music.
“We’ve also performed at the Olympic torch ceremony at Greenhead Park and outside Lawrence Batley Theatre.
“I did leave at one point but came back because it’s so addictive.
“It really sharpens the brain and is great for people like me who can’t read sheet music. It’s all based on muscle memory.”
A large selection of surdo, repinique and caixa drums, agogo bells and tambourines take over a corner of the practice room, which were funded through the weekly £5 charges.
Keen to start playing the music they love, I was handed my own tambourine and moved into line by new leader Helen Curtis, who has just replaced founding conductor Maggie O’Keefe.
Within minutes we are copying the rhythms she creates for the different sections, which quickly begin to have a hypnotic effect on everyone, so focused are we on trying to keep to the beat.
I learn two ‘breaks’ – a percussion section that breaks away from the main parts of the piece – within the first hour, which give the music its recognisable flair.
At the group pause I chatted to the members about why they love to play samba.
“It’s the great sound that got me,” explained Susie Malville, a carer who heard the band a few years ago.
“But it was one that made me think that I could join in too. Since then I’ve even got one of my 93-year-old ladies that I care for playing when I go see her at home.
“I find performing it empowering and a real confidence booster and it’s a great little community.”
Helen loves getting about with the band and said: “Playing samba places you into a worldwide community and you can play with other bands wherever you find yourself.
“There’s such an awesome feeling not only playing at an event but when we go to big samba meet ups where around 150 people end up playing together. Everyone gets such a big buzz.
“There’s something primal about drumming which is why I think it becomes addictive.”
The group has also become a key practising ground for some of the university’s music students who have opted to study a module in the art of samba, and will this year be open to any other student at the university too, along with any other interested person who can make it to the rehearsals.
Resuming, we pick up different instruments. I am handed a surdo, a large bass drum, which I attach to a lanyard around my body.
I’m also given a set of knee pads to protect them from the impact of the baton beating hard onto the drum. This certainly is not a musical genre for the shy and retiring.
We practice another song, part of an entirely new repertoire for the band.
“I’m teaching a new style to everyone which involves African samba beats, which I love.
“It’s a change of direction for the band and it makes it feel like a new start for us.
“I’ve got lots of plans for us over the next season and more.
“I want to team up with other performers to create really big shows and would like to involve dancers, singers and fire poi experts (a performance art that involves dancers swinging around fire lit objects).
“It’s a very exciting time for us and we can’t wait to get started with our first live performances of the season, which will include playing outside Lawrence Batley Theatre on Halloween.”
To find out more about Slick Stick Sambastic go to www.slicksticksambastic.com