A 25-piece Drum & Bass and Brass Orchestra, Carnival Collective has been a major player in the Brighton festival scene for years. If you want variation, well, this is it. Their sound is about as diverse as it gets: drum & bass, reggae, and swing, played on horns and Brazilian drums, not to mention captivating voices. They’ve been together for nearly 30 years. It is an impressive feat, but it’s no surprise having considered their heavy contribution to Brighton’s colourful culture. Their team is constantly holding workshops and classes to teach young people their skills.
They’ve performed as a 12-piece band in smaller venues, but they definitely don’t shy away from big audeinces too. Gathering up to 30 group members for performances, you can find them at clubs or festivals and extraordinary parades.
Along with all the live music, their members include artists, dancers, and professional DJs. They specialise in all kinds of music including funk, afrobeat, disco and soul.
With Brighton Fringe only a couple of short weeks away, Carnival Collective is working on drumming up some anticipation for their night at Caravanserai, a new area at the 2023 Fringe Festival. We spoke to the group on how they got together, what they’ve been up to, and what they plan on doing next.
They began as a small group focusing on Brazilian percussion. Carnival Collective attracted members with samba workshops, drummers, dancers and singers alike. With such a range of skills and genres, they started to integrate more modern sounds into their work. The band “took a new direction, incorporating British music culture into our repertoire, playing hip-hop, reggae, drum & bass, and jungle inspired tunes using the traditional instruments of a samba batteria.”
This energy was quickly taken on by the streets of Brighton. As the group has developed, its audience has developed along with it.
From starting as a samba band to now delivering dance, art projects and educational music to surrounding communities, Carnival Collective has been through every genre you can name. This just goes to show the versatility and immense skill of the ensemble as a whole. Carnival Collective aim to “put good vibrations into the world…party with [their] amazing, beautiful and wild fans, and be a community of like-minded and supportive people,” and this is exactly what they have been doing.
Collaborations became a prospect once they had established their position in Brighton. After venturing into the world of small gigs and club sets, Carnival Collective performed in venues such as Casablanca Club and Concorde 2. This helped them gain a little more traction before other samba bands from the rest of the UK and Europe came to work with them. They held even more workshops in and around the city. Members individually paraded down to the seafront, to form a huge group with hundreds of musicians and dancers.
Carnival Collective told me about their favourite events, one of them being the ‘Heart’ gig at a venue formerly known as ‘The Zap’.
This was their first showcase of their jungle and drum & bass sounds, marking one of the few times a samba band had ever performed in a club setting. Later on, they introduced these club sets to the streets of Brighton. Carvinal Collective involved DJs, musicians, singers and the entire brass band in a parade. They said: “we turned down West Street and the sound bounced off the buildings. We hit a new height. Super exciting and unforgettable.”
If that doesn’t sound impressive enough, they’ve also been on stage at Theatre & Circus, Shangri-La and Lost Vagueness, all subsections of the infamous Glastonbury Festival. Clearly, there’s no shortage of experience for these guys to add to their already brimming repertoire. Playing at Glastonbury until the early hours is considered a highlight by every group member involved. They said, “we took the roof off the place, it was a fantastic experience.”
So, what are Carnival Collective up to these days?
Well, they recently played for Brighton fans at the AMEX Stadium, a pretty big moment in paying tribute to the last 30 years. Everyone contributed, including leaders, founders and members. This was a stepping stone towards their upcoming performances this year, which are not to be missed.
After hearing all about them, we’re sure you’re dying to know what’s coming up for Carnival Collective in 2023. With Fringe, and the festival season being well and truly upon us, here’s the latest. This May, they’ll be performing at Elderflower Fields, a family festival held in Ashdown Forest.
They’re also hosting an entire night at the new Caravanserai area at this year’s Fringe. They are headlining with a full live band, supported by Brassic Parp, a band showcasing brass versions of 90s pop classics, and Sambaoke, a Brighton based samba/karaoke singalong. Look out for the band in their glittering costumes, playing their trademark combination of funk, jungle, dub and Latin music, to name just a few. If you reach the end of the main show and aren’t ready to stop partying, stick around for the DJs and other special guests. Theywill, without a doubt, keep you dancing well into the next morning. All the details can be found at www.brightonfringe.org. Tickets come in at just £15, so there’s little reason not to get in on the fun.
Catch Carnival Collective at Brighton Fringe as they run their takeover night at the amazing Caravanserai venue on Thurs 11 May, 9pm-2am.
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