Samba Elégua is a Toronto-based percussion group inspired by the samba school bateria tradition of Rio de Janeiro. At a Samba Elégua show, up to 30 percussionists deliver explosive, driving, layered rhythms that compel audiences to stand up and dance. The sound and spectacle of synchronized samba drummers moves people of all ages and musical tastes.
Since 2001, Samba Elégua has performed for music festivals, community events, parades, black-tie fundraisers, underground parties, television programs, weddings, as well as headlining shows at Toronto venues.
Samba Elégua is also a non-profit, volunteer-run musical community, powered by the passion of its members. It is free to join and open to all, from novices to experienced players. The band supports a range of community-building and social justice causes in the Toronto area.
Samba Elégua plays traditional rhythms on Brazilian samba instruments like the surdo (bass drum), caixa (snare drum), repenique, tamborim and agogo bells. On top of that, the group mixes in the high-energy musical styles heard around us in our home city of Toronto, like reggae, funk and hip hop.
Samba Elégua was founded in January of 2001 by Itay Keshet. Itay saw a need in Toronto for an open, community-oriented samba-inspired multimedia performance project. Since its inception, hundreds of people have played in Samba Elégua. Itay continues to contribute at any opportunity when not acting in his daily role as neurologist in New York City.
Samba Elegua’s current musical directors are Leah Breslow and Emily Glazer. Together they have a wealth of musical experience within and outside the samba world. They have been in the band for over six years.
Past directors and cherished members and mentors of the SE community are: Adam Kafal, Jonathan Rothman, Sterling Saldino, Jon Medow, Andrea Bergman, Hasan Khan, Christine Delay, Raphael Roter.
From the members of Samba Elégua:
“Our community has thrown down hundreds of times, and in the process committed thousands of bodies to the groove of our rhythms. We led the first ever Reclaim the Streets parade from Kensington Market and helped launch Pedestrian Sundays, giving voice to a community that is changing the face of the city.
Every year we mark the beginning and end of summer at the legendary Cherry Beach parties, where frenzied dancers envelop the crowds in clouds of dust. We’ve played in support of causes and organizations whose beliefs we share; our music has helped community activists draw attention to important issues ranging from the environment and health care to poverty and peace.
We have collaborated with musicians of all kinds: DJs, rappers, saxophonists, trumpet players and vocalists. We have always been inclusive, community-oriented and as diverse as the city we represent. We are an example to all that it is possible to do amazing things with nothing but a dream and chutzpah.”