Who’s who

Here’s the main people currently behind The African Sambistas. There are people missing from here who have supported us over the last few years and whom we thank. Our regular drummers and dancers have performed on cold and rainy days, honouring their commitment to perform. We thank everyone who has contributed, we know who you are.

We asked each member the following questions:

  1. What’s your day job?
  2. How and when did you discover The Sambistas?
  3. What’s your favourite part of the group?
  4. What’s your best memory?
  5. What new thing would you like to do in 2019?
  6. Do you perform with any other groups?
  7. Random fact about yourself.


Jordan Packham

Samba drum teacher BristolJordan is our super enthusiastic and talented drum director and teacher. You’ll never stress him out, he’ll always give 100% once he’s there.

Day job: researcher investigating if fridge lights stay on when the door is closed.
How you found us: mistyped “scam busters” into Google.
Favourite: seeing the group grow.
Memory: playing Jungle at Shambala festival.
Plans: keep on going.
Perform with: Jamma De Samba, Glow Drummers, CDB Sound System
Random facts: Jordan hates raisins

Libby Farrow

Libby Farrow dance teacher

Libby is our dance director and teacher. You’ll find her at classes, workshops and performances with her boundless enthusiasm for dancing and getting the crowd going. Libby is good at improvising and invented some great stories for our festival theme which entertained the adults as much or maybe more than the children.

Day job: children’s party host, orchardist and mum!
How you found us: 9 years ago, recommended by a friend.
Favourite: I love the camaraderie, the enthusiasm and high energy of the group.
Memory: Processioning through Cheltenham Centre in the driving rain, completely drenched, drumming our heads off and dancing our hearts out, while onlookers hid in shop doorways and bus shelters! Never smiled so much, or felt so good, in downpour!
Plans: Learn to play ukulele!
Perform with: I perform with my own troop Jafondye Dance (Pan-African fusion) Mundi Dance (Pan-African) and The Go-Gets (60’s go go)

Random facts: – The last van I owned was Portishead’s old tour van!


Lucy Lu

Lucy SambistaLucy manages the group along with Tom, both taking on the role in October 2017. Lucy was a dancer and then converted to the dark side after a foot injury and can usually be seen on the surdos (bass drums) or shaker. Lucy would like a curfew on social media photographs after about 7pm.

Day job: Scrum Master and Mum
How you found us: I discovered Sambistas back in 2013 when I was looking for a new hobby. I found the class online and discovered it was near to my home. I went along to the dance class and just fell in love with the rhythms and routines.
Favourite: I love the diversity of the group and the welcoming atmosphere. I’ve made friends with some incredible people and learnt new skills. I love the performance opportunities. Especially going to festivals with a great bunch of people. Sambistas socials are always a lot of fun too!
Shambala 2017 was definitely my biggest highlight. We delivered some amazing performances, the sun was shining, friendships were forged and lots of smiles and joy all around!
Plans: Continue to grow the group, get some amazing gigs. Especially after our Samba drought during recent lockdowns
Perform with:  I’m a Sambista through and through!
Random facts: I am related to Joseph Mallord William Turner and I have a metal plate in my ankle! Bionic??

Adam Landowski

Adam sambistaAdam is our latest volunteer. He started with us in 2018 and plays the surdos. He’s responsible for keeping track of who’s paid at classes, a really important job for us since we are self funded. He’s also too new for us to be allowed to make things up about him on here.

Day job: Category pricing analyst.
How you found us: It was St. Paul’s Carnival in 2018 where I saw Sambistas performances first time and it was amazing! I was wondering if there is a chance to join the group. I googled it and I found the The African Sambistas website.
Favourite: Everyone is welcome to the band.
St. Paul’s Carnival – I got a lot of energy from Sambistas performance.
Plans: Lots of rehearsals and performances with Sambistas.
Perform with: Loyal the Sambistas!
Random facts: I have been thinking about drumming since I was teenager and started to do it in my 30s.

Tom Stickland

Tom sambistasTom used to co run the group with Lucy. He first joined as a drummer in 2014, left for a bit and then returned full time in 2015. Described as being “weird in a good way” he is always looking for ways a spreadsheet could improve things. Tom can occasionally be seen directing the band with his own unique interpretation of some of the signals. – Tom still joins us for various gigs and will often lead when Jordan is otherwise engaged 🙂

Day job: Development engineer. Loads of software and maths.
How you found us: I saw some good Youtube videos and I googled the name.
Favourite: I love the spirit of adventure that has carried us through some unlikely situations.
There’s been a lot. I think busking at Bristol Harbourside with 6 of us was one the best nights.
Plans: Keep growing and playing at exciting events.
Perform with: In 2016 I was in 4 drumming groups and 3 choirs at the same time. That got a bit mad. I currently drum with Bloco B  and my new group that doesn’t have a name yet and I sing with Bristol Show Choir. Previously I drummed with Ola Samba, Afon Sistema and Carnaval Transatlantico and sang with Riff Raff Choir and The Raff Pack.
Random facts: There was a 20 year gap between being a kit drummer and the bug biting again in 2014.


Rachel De Garang

Rachel De Garang, founder of the African SambistasRachel founded the African Sambistas in 2008 and actively ran the organisation until 2017. She still supports us from behind the scenes with festival applications and banking and tax statements. Rachel has a special talent for getting a crowd going with her microphone skills and has also provided us with great cake.

Day job: I am event organiser and programme manager for Tribe of Doris.
How you found us: I heard samba for the first time in 1999, and started performing and teaching for another samba group. In the summer of 2008 at Shambala Festival it came to me that I should set up my own group to do the things I love.
Favourite: Festivals: Performing & hanging out on the campsite and going round together seeing bands and having a laugh.
Memory: So many, but key is performing on stage with Nigel May at Shambala Festival.
Plans: Source more drums and amazing costumes and kit for Sambistas.
Perform with: I independently teach dance in schools.
Random facts: I speak 3 languages fluently ( English, Arabic and Dinka) and some basic Spanish and am learning Portuguese.