By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Since 2014, English expatriate Tom Ashe has been running Favela Brass, an NGO that provides free music lessons to some of Rio’s disadvantaged children. With a new permanent home, an expanded program of music lessons, and their first performance outside of the state of Rio de Janeiro, 2019 is looking to be their busiest year yet.
2019 has got off to a positive start with Ashe finally securing a permanent base for the charity inside the favela community of Pereira da Silva. “The main thing for us is that I bought a house in the favela, so we’ve now got a permanent home for the project.” He explains.
Ashe continues, “When I started the project, the whole idea behind it is that I could see in Rio lots and lots of short-term cultural projects and social projects, but from my experience, at school in Doncaster, in order to get results you need institutions that hang around, so that the kids can have continuity in their learning and actually get somewhere on their instruments, which is what really makes it all work.”
Having a permanent space is a vital step to ensuring the kind of continuity and tradition that Ashe is so keen to instill in his adopted community. “I’m very happy that we’ve got a permanent home. Favela Brass certainly won’t stop functioning because of issues with our rehearsal space.”
Other good news from the project is the continuing success of many of their students. “One of our trombone students, Henri, who is twelve years old, just won a scholarship to study at the Villa Lobos school.” Ashe adds.
Plus, this year Favela Brass are set to play their first concert outside of the state of Rio de Janeiro, having been invited to participate in the jazz festival ‘Tudo é Jazz,’ which is taking place in Ouro Preto, Minais Gerais, in May.
However, the main change for Favela Brass in 2019 will be the planned expansion of their music lessons into the local schools surrounding the favela community. Ashe explains, “When I came to Rio I realized that they didn’t have the kind of free music infrastructure that I was used to growing up in Doncaster.”
He continues, “The lack of anything like that in Rio really struck me. Especially a place so musical, where live music is still a big part of the popular culture. Music lessons are something that are very much wanted in Rio, but it just seems that the education side of things is lagging behind.”
Favela Brass are set to team up with four municipal schools in Catete, Glória, Laranjeiras and Santa Teresa, Ashe comments, “We’re going to set up our own little local authority music service with me and Mangueirinha, our percussion teacher, and other volunteers, hopping around the schools during the day, trying to teach as many music lessons and set up as many bands as possible.”
This expansion is going to be a big step up from Favela Brass’s usual activities, so Ashe is looking for any help or contributions that people can offer. “We’re going to launch a crowdfunding campaign in a couple of weeks’ time.” He mentions. Those interested in contributing should keep an eye on the NGO’s website and Facebook page.
When not running Favela Brass, English expatriate Tom Ashe is busy playing with his brass band every Thursday evening at Cazota in Lapa, and he is also organizing a ‘bloco’ (street party) for this year’s upcoming Carnival.
“I’m putting together a jazz bloco called ‘Amigos da Cacilda’ to play during Carnival.” He says. “It’s going to take place on the Tuesday morning of Carnival and it’s going to start at the Mississippi Delta Blues Bar at 10AM.”
Ashe continues, “We’re basically going to do a Mardi Gras day in the Gamboa area, featuring my band that plays at Cazota in Lapa every Thursday, and a band from the UK called the New York Brass Band.”