“It’s not the hype, it’s the people you play with,” declared a performer, marked by phosphorescent war paint on his arms and legs.
Along with a hundred or so other people at Deconstructed, a SMU Samba Masala production, I had the time of my life during the three hour-long concert on Friday, 26th February 2016. No, seriously. It was great.
Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Baracuda Batucada opened the night. Dhoby Ghaut Green was treated to a killer performance, with the rhythm of the drums and percussions making our heartbeats thrum rapidly, making us clap just that much harder after the piece. The emcee rode on the momentum of the players and the crowd, exclaiming, “You’re so good! Let’s chill out tonight, okay guys? Can?”
Of course, we only cheered harder after that.
What blew my mind was the hard work that Samba Masala put into their performances. The music scores must have run pages upon pages, because each piece went over five minutes. On top of memorizing the rhythm and beats, the performers also pulled off synchronized movements with flair, and a crazy amount of fun injected into every quick exchange of position, punchy pose and dramatic finish. There was one dude who took out his GoPro, ran around to the audience and the players on his side of the stage, and then went back to the same beat as the rest of the band as if nothing happened. How did he do that?!
Around midpoint of the concert, my unedited notes go: Bad ass solo!!
Instructors Riduan Zalani (above) and Rajvinder Singh owned the stage during their respective cameo solos. Like the concept of Deconstructed, and demonstrating what Samba Masala was showing us throughout the night, they took musicality to another level.
Said junior Liew Zi Xin, “We’re playing the same score, but we’re also channeling our personality on the stage. Every one of us has a different style.” Everyone clearly played their hearts out, and when they roped the audience in for their spin on Uptown Funk, they broke the fourth wall and never turned back.
“Put your hands up!” main instructor Idham Budiman (above) yelled over the crowd’s excitement to the familiar rhythm. “I think you gotta sing the first note with me.” One, two, three. Man, you’d be surprised at how well a hundred people can sing “AHHHHH” in such perfect harmony.
“I’M TOO HOT!” our lead man sang, and with a well timed flourish of the microphone, the crowd unabashedly yelled back, “HOT DAMN!”
Artistic Director Bryan Lee, as with all the performances that night, arranged Uptown Funk’s dance choreography. Red, blue and yellow stage lights upped the ante. I only realized how much I was into the song when the line “STOP, WAIT A MINUTE” made its glorious appearance, and every single percussionist literally froze. My heart probably skipped a beat too.
Then, our lead teased, “Hey, uhm, what’s the next line?” and I don’t think I could have laughed harder.
To spice things up, Samba Masala put onstage an all-girls team and an all-guys team, complete with on-fleek outfits. They proved again that they were all-round entertainers, with a bit of a skit and a lot of talent. “I love you!” shouted a member of the audience. “NO, I LOVE YOU!” came a second later.
The night rounded off with the instructors leading the audience, without any words spoken, into a rhythm battle. Clap, clap. Clap clap, clap clap. Clap, shuffle palms and wriggle fingers. Clap, wrings hands and accidentally strangles the air. The instructors’ good-natured laughter was contagious. They then led the audience into a steady rhythm of a clap and then snap of fingers, while the performers bowed out of stage, until the audience spontaneously broke into wild applause.
I had to ask for the trade secret to pulling off such a great performance.
“Samba Masala is family. Everyone here trains so hard together, and many of them are going to be friends for life. Beyond SMU, beyond Samba Masala,” said Ian Lim, a Samba Masala senior. “We just make sure to do things that people will never forget.