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Banda Chiflada

for saxophone quartet

Year:  2012   ·  Duration:  4m
Instrumentation:  SATB saxophone quartet

Year:  2012
Duration:  4m
Instrumentation  SATB saxophone quartet

Composer:   Robbie Ellis

Films, Audio & Samples

Sample Score

Sample: pages 3 - 5

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Banda is a genre that sprang to life in the late nineteenth century when Mexican music collided with the polka of German immigrants. Traditional bandas are centred around the sousaphone and the tambora (a bass drum with a hi-hat on top). Beyond these, you’ll find further wind, brass and percussion instruments depending on the regional style: clarinets, saxophones, alto horns, trumpets, trombones, tarolas (snare drums) and more.

A few months before writing this piece I’d seen a YouTube video of Chicago group Banda Sincera performing before a Mexican national team football match*. The atmosphere was party, the tempo was quick, the time was compound, the licks were virtuosic, and the pulse was always getting disrupted at the ends of sections. The band would pause, the tarolero and sousaphone dude would go off on a soloistic tangent, and then the band was back in for more of the same. They even stuck a conga-based cumbia in the middle! These guys were mental and I loved it.

When I started on a piece for Saxcess I established the reasonably serious beginnings of Huff, but I kept getting pulled down this raucous Mexican garden path. I put the serious to one side, started a new score, took a few days to get this “banda chiflada” (crazy band) out of my system, and resumed composing Huff when I was done. They’re two very different pieces, but ultimately cut from the same cloth.

* Banda Sincera playing Arriba Pichátaro here:

Commissioned note

Composed at the request of Debbie Rawson & Saxcess. Written with the support of the University of Otago Mozart Fellowship.

Performance history

27 Jun 2012: Performed by Saxcess: Debbie Rawson (soprano sax), Reuben Chin (alto sax), Hayden Sinclair (tenor sax), Graham Hanify (baritone sax), at St Paul's Presbyterian Church, in Whanganui

30 Jun 2012: Performed by Saxcess at the Cromwell Memorial Hall, in Cromwell

01 Jul 2012: Performed by Saxcess at the Lake Wanaka Centre, in Wanaka

06 Jul 2012: Performed by Saxcess at the Whakatane Baptist Centre, in Whakatane.

07 Jul 2012: Performed by Saxcess at the Woolshed Theatre, in Te Awamutu

08 Jul 2012: Performed by Saxcess at Ascension Winery, in Warkworth

10 Jul 2012: Performed by Saxcess at the Old Library Building Arts Centre, in Whangarei

16 Jul 2012: Performed by Saxcess at Expressions Genesis Energy Theatre, in Upper Hutt

07 Jul 2013: Performed by Saxcess at the Greytown Music Group, in Greytown.

Performed by Saxcess at the Adam Concert Room, New Zealand School of Music, in Wellington.

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