Brazilian Press: O Dia Newspaper (Feb/2015)
"The trumpet player Tom Ashe saw in the Pereira da Silva favela an opportunity to disseminate his knowledge. Resident of Rio for 7-years, he's responsible for the Favela Brass project which offers free music lessons for children between 4 and 14 years of age who live in the favela. The instruments are all donated."
BBC Radio Leeds (June 2014)
British TV: Channel 5 (June 2014)
Brazilian TV: TV Brasil (December 2013)
Brazilian Press: Veja Rio (December, 2013)
(Text translated into English)
Afternoons in the French Square in Santa Teresa have become more musical over the last year. This is the location of the Welcome Mission Centre, the institution where the British trumpet player Tom Ashe teaches 26 children between the ages of 7 and 14 from the Pereirão, Fallet and Fogueteiro favelas how to play brass instruments such as trumpet, trombone, euphonium and tuba as well as how to read musical notation. "The samba schools have ended up creating a plethora of virtuoso young percussionists, but the brass tradition that Brazil had back in the 1940s has been lost over time", explains Ashe, 34, in his uneven Portuguese. Seeking to rescue this musical heritage, and imbued with a desire to help to improve the lives of the children in the nearby favelas, he resolved to go back to basics by teaching Rio's classic songbook. The little ones start with songs such as Cabeleira do Zezé, Asa Branca, Rap da Felicidade and the class favorite Mulata Ye Ye Ye. "I asked them what they liked to listen to, and they responded: Bonde das Maravilhas", tells Tom, who was subsequently shocked when he then learned about the group of young girls who popularised the erotic dance the "quadradinho de oito". "I ended up going for Carnival songs, which everyone knows."
In love with samba music, the trumpet player decided to exchange Europe for Rio six years ago as a way of improving his musical knowledge through first hand experience. At the moment he makes his living from the two jazz bands that he plays in. The teaching project is touched by the difficulties inherent in attempting this type of activity. Unable to afford new instruments, he brings second hand ones over from England. To cover wage costs, Tom has organised what is known as the Curry Clube. Every Wednesday he prepares Indian food and opens his house in the Pereirão favela to an average of 30 diners who pay 20 Brazilian Reais each. It's hard work, but he assures that the result is worthwhile. "I thought that maybe three in ten of the kids would take to music, but as it happened they're all into it. It's great to see kids sharing in the enjoyment of making music."
Brazilian Press: O Globo, Rio Show Supplement (February, 2014)
(Text translated into English)
"In the case of Tom Ashe, appearances aren't deceptive. With light-coloured skin, blue eyes and a ginger beard, he looks like a foreigner. English, to be precise. In ever other respect, however, he's an authentic carioca. He has permanent residency, his own micro-company, a bank account, tax number and supermarket reward card. He even shares our sense of humour and jeitinho.
Five years ago Tom (34) arrived in Rio to study Brazilian music for 6 months. What little he knew of Brazilian music came from recordings of Elza Soares, from the 1960s, with their alluring combination of samba and brass instruments. Just as he was leaving, ex-president Luiz Inácia Lula da Silva announced an amnesty, which made all illegal immigrants legal residents. He stayed for good.
After all, he was already a local. By way of an intermediary in the form of the brother in law of a guitarist with whom he was playing at a bar in Lapa, Tom found himself playing in bloco Cordão do Boitatá at carnival 2009, his first in Rio. This Sunday, he'll be in the procession that departs from Rua do Mercado in the centre of Rio at 8H, with trumpet in hand.
"I also play tuba, trombone and euphonium, but for carnival I prefer the trumpet, because it's lighter", he says.
He has a full schedule over the coming days of carnival.
"I work a lot during carnival" Tom jokes, using his fingers to put the word "work" in quotation marks. "Aside from Boitatá, I'll be playing with Mário Bloco. And on the 2nd of March, my band, the São Jorge Brass Band, will be playing play New Orleans jazz in front of Santo Scenarium, in Lapa."
International Press: Le Petit Journal (Nicolas Sanchez - May, 2014)
"The place quickly becomes a cacophony of sounds coming from all directions. But on walking into room or another, you can see caring adults, who know how to work with children and who are managing to turn rigourous learning into a real pleasure..."
(click below for full article in French):
International Press: Reuters (Pilar Olivares Navoa - July, 2013)
Excerpt from an article on Reuters about foreigners who have moved to Rio, entitled "Slumdog Gringos":
"The story of Tom is a little different from the others [foreigners living in Rio's favelas]. Tom is a trumpet player from England who arrived in Rio five years ago with the goal of experiencing Brazil’s music. Tom found a small apartment belonging to a French expatriate, who rents it for $400. It’s high up near the hilltop of the Pereirão favela, with an impressive view of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Tom knows that the money he pays could be used to rent a room in Rio’s center, but he says his reason for being there is not just economic. He likes to live with the slum dwellers to learn about the culture and roots behind Brazilian music.
Tom is well-liked by his neighbors, as one of the few gringos who mixes with others in the community. One of his friends told me, “There are gringos who come here only to make money, open hostels, and contribute nothing to the community. Sometimes they arrange parties for gringos only, without Brazilans. Tom is different". Children, his music students, greet him on the street, and the owner of a small shop chats with him.
When I accompanied him to look for a friend who lives down the hill we walked along streets so dark that I felt it too unsafe to walk with a camera. But Tom assured me in his relaxed English accent, “It’s very safe here, nothing will happen.” Along the way I noticed some silhouettes in the darkness that spooked me, but only after we returned to his home did he confess that those truly were “mysterious.” Still, he assured me that nobody touches the local gringos.
Tom says that in Rio he has a more active social life than in London, participating in samba events where he plays with others musicians. He has close friends in the favela.
“Rio is an excellent place for a musician,” he said. His only worry is his ability to support a future family. He wouldn’t think of sending kids to a public school or a public hospital. The cost of living and private services like education and health is so high that Tom concludes, “To live a comfortable life in Brazil you have to be rich.”
German Press: Zeit (Philip Flavio - November, 2013)