Wednesday 15 April 2020

Arambol diaries - La Sambusa Latina

It was during our stay in Hong Kong that Vani invited me to attend a live 'Gypsy Jazz' event.
You can read about the previous post from the series here - Arambol diaries - Vani

A group from Argentina would be playing at a pub in Central and she felt I would enjoy the evening. After work, we met at Central for food before heading out for the music. It was a ticketed event and the underground pub was brimming with people when we arrived. The lead singer came on stage with his ukulele and soon the foot tapping, soulful music started. The singing was inter spaced with circus acts playing to the tunes of Latino beats. The group called themselves 'La Sambusa Latina', a travelling circus band. The Hong Kong Swing Club members had joined in for the evening and it didn't take long for the evening to come alive.

During a break in the show, the band members came off the stage and mingled with the crowd. We started talking.
Thomas and Sebastian, the main group members are both Argentinians, but they couldn't come from any more diverse backgrounds. Thomas, the lead singer who was on the ukulele, is an engineer. He gave up his stable future in Argentina for this life of music, travel and uncertainty. Sebastian on the other hand had left his home ten years ago and has been on the road ever since. He travelled through Latin America picking up skills from other travellers he met on the road. Every skill he had now was learnt while travelling, including the trumpet and the juggling he was performing on the night. In those days he was learning to play the flute from a Greek guy he met in Hong Kong.

It was in Mexico that Tom and Seba had met the year before. With Tom's enthusiasm and passion for music, his management skills and Seba's diverse talents, the travelling circus band 'La Sambusa Latina' was formed.

Tom crooning as he strums on his ukulele

Seba entertaining with one of his acts

I had never met a travelling band before. The more I talked, the more intrigued I was. Given that the members are all travellers, the structure of the group is very dynamic to suit their lifestyle. As they travel, they pick up new band members who may be living or travelling in the area at that time, while members who had joined before may leave to continue on their journeys. This I realised is what makes the travelling bands so unique and keeps them fresh. Everywhere they travel, they are enriched with new talent and new learning. Tom and Seba had been travelling through South East Asia for last few months, staying in a country as long as their visa allowed. The drummer playing on the night had joined them in Malayasia and accompanied them to Hong Kong. Once their visa expired, they had plans to travel to China, possibly find new members on the way.

I have held a stable job for two decades, yet a holiday abroad has always required intense planning of my budget. Hence, I was curious about how they financed their travels and day to day living. And Hong Kong is an expensive city to live in.
I was unaware until then that travellers like Tom and Seba always have a worldwide community where they help each other out, where not everything is weighed in money. I had more to observe and learn during my stay in Arambol with them. In a place like Hong Kong where accommodation is the biggest concern for everyone, I was surprised to know that there is always a room to share somewhere within the community. Apart from that, there are gigs like the one I was attending and busking in prime tourist locations to raise money. They publicise themselves through word of mouth and in today's digital world, social media. Contacts are made and information is shared through their unique travel community that survives in the true spirit of brotherhood, of helping each other out, living through the thick and thin as a close knit worldwide community. Despite their limited finances, we came to know that just by mentioning we were with La Sambusa Latina at the gates of the pub, we could have gained free entry, such is the strong community feeling in their world.

Unbeknown to me, Vani was invited by Tom that night to play in one of their performances.
It was only later that I learned that the gigs Vani had been mentioning to me were with La Sambusa Latina. She loves her music as did Tom. Probably the life Tom had chosen was too tempting for her gypsy soul to resist. It didn't take her long to give up the professional career she had nurtured all these years for something she truly was passionate about.

In December, La Sambusa Latina was in India, in the gypsy town of Arambol, Goa.
Here is their Facebook page - La Sambusa Latina.

Vani and Tom in Arambol

They did pose for me too

A smaller group of La Sambusa Latina chilling before a performance
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