It’s amazing how your life can change, just when you least expect it.

When Janel Morrissey took her son Lucas along to the Lismore Lantern Festival, she anticipated an entertaining evening of visual delights. In fact, it was what she heard that made a bigger impact. As the lantern parade passed, the sound of rhythmic drumming came closer and closer until a band of red-clothed musicians called the Samba Blisstas appeared. Janel was captivated by their incredible sound, movement and free-spirited musical style. She wondered how it would feel to be part of something like that.

Playing a style of carnavale drumming inspired by and modelled on the Brazillian form of samba street percussion, the Samba Blisstas have chapters located along the East Coast of Australia, ranging in size from 20 to 45 members. Director, Paul Barrett, brought the concept to the East Coast in 2003, and the groups have been livening up festivals and community events with their unique music ever since.

Some years after that lantern festival, having relocated to Byron Bay, Janel saw a banner outside the local Community Centre advertising a 4-week beginner’s course for the Samba Blisstas. It only took her a nanosecond to decide she would sign up for the course. An accountant by day, Janel says joining the Samba-Blisstas was not just a step into the unknown, but rather, a giant leap. She’d never learnt to play a musical instrument before, but it had always been something she wanted to do – some day. Well, that some day had arrived!

Get out of your rut

Janel, left, and a Samba Blisstas friend

Having completed the introductory course, Janel had the opportunity to join the local Byron chapter members in her first performance the Railway Hotel in Byron Bay last November.

“I was quite nervous before that performance, as there’s quite a lot to remember and all the songs are choreographed. I enjoyed performing, but I felt relieved when it was finished,” she said.

“Now, when I perform, I feel really excited beforehand. There’s quite a lot of preparation with the makeup, costumes and getting everything ready to go. After the performance you feel elation and happiness, particularly if the audience is receptive and they dance, and then applaud us,” she added.

She loves the adrenalin rush and the release. “Drumming is very physical and requires a lot of energy, so it’s also a good workout.”

Janel says the best things about being part of the Samba Blisstas are, “Travelling around to new places, the sense of belonging to a large troupe, making new friends and playing music which is very grounding and tribal, and which makes the audience smile.”

Her advice to other women is, “Don’t be afraid to try new things. Educate yourself to get the knowledge you need and to build your confidence. Be prepared to learn something new.”

So, is there something you’ve always wanted to do? What could you do that would change your life for the better right now? Please leave your comments in the box below – I love hearing from you – thank you.

Celebrate life

Janel performing with the Samba Blisstas

Celebrate life

Janel and husband Peter, a fellow Samba Blisstas member