A Powerful Experience of Drumming, Nature and Connection
By Stephanie Robinson
I am a bass drummer in Batala Lancaster, and this was my first Batala Mundo trip abroad as I decided to play with Batala Austria in the Alps. I was super nervous but also excited and was really happy that my husband could come to support us by taking pictures and videos.
Our adventure began as we flew from Manchester to Vienna, where we were greeted by friendly faces from Batala Austria, Batala Creta and Batala Badajoz, with Batalor Bangor awaiting us at our destination. We travelled 400km by car to Nassfeld, with a much-appreciated pit stop by Lake Wörthersee that offered the most stunning views.
We arrived in Nassfeld, by the border of Italy and Austria, and I was instantly struck by the powerful and beautiful mountain range that surrounded us. After checking into our rooms, we shared drinks and stories, getting to know each other before preparing for our first drumming gig, just a few hours away. Our mission was clear: to energize the trail runners participating in the Nassfeld Mountain Skytrails event, a challenge encompassing four trails of varying difficulty, stretching up to 54 kilometres and reaching heights of up to 4,300 metres. Our role was to cheer them on and welcome them back.
The initial gig and parade were filled with adrenaline and excitement. It was our first time performing together as a band, but the beauty of Batala lies in its universal language of music. Regardless of the country a Batala Band is from, we all know and play the same songs. Even if we couldn’t speak each other’s language, we communicated and united through the power of music and the love of Samba Reggae. I vividly remember playing that first gig, I couldn’t help but smile. I was surrounded by the music I love, set against the backdrop of breathtaking scenery, with new friends from diverse cultures that I instantly felt I had a connection with. That was an experience that has been imprinted in my mind.
That night, we gathered to eat, drink, share stories, and deepen our connections. Spirits were high, and we decided to continue the get-together after the bar closed. Diggo, with his guitar, played and sang so beautifully while we drummed on tables and chairs to the Brazilian sounds of his hometown, Salvador de Bahia – the very roots of our Batala music. Even my husband, not yet a Batala drummer, couldn’t resist joining in with the Mundo vibes.
Despite the late-night social gathering, we had an early start the next morning, with breakfast at 5.30 am. Yes, 5.30 am – a first for me. No matter how much fun we had the night before, being a part of Batala also means being a professional. We had a long day ahead, with drumming scheduled from 8:00 am until after 9:00 pm, with breaks in between.
We played multiple sets at the starting line to motivate the trail runners, then packed up our drums and headed to the cableway for a chairlift ride to Madritschen in the Carinthia region of southern Austria, approximately 2,000 metres above sea level. It was a new experience, getting ourselves and our drums safely on and off the chairlift, and it was certainly an unexpected addition to my bucket list.
Sitting on the chairlift was both tense due to the height yet also quiet and serene. It provided a peaceful moment to take in the stunning surroundings, with the sun shining and the only sounds being cowbells below and the songs of birds in the trees, with the occasional shriek from me as the chairlift passed over ridges along the way.
Nevertheless, when we reached the summit, I took a brief stroll and was utterly blown away by the incredible size and depth of the Alps. Everywhere I looked, the vast mountains were as far as the eye could see, and I was in awe of their beauty. It was the first time in my life that I was left speechless by nature – such a profoundly powerful experience.
Being able to drum at the top of this incredible mountain range, alongside Diggo singing, felt like a privilege to me and a memory that I will cherish forever. We played as a smaller band, allowing players to rotate during the non-stop three-hour set.
We descended with our drums and returned to the starting line to drum for the runners’ return – but only after a well-deserved break. We played several sets and drummed up support for the trail run winners in each category. The day concluded with another performance featuring Diggo, where we played a new song that I fell in love with. It was well after 9 pm when we finally wrapped up, and it wasn’t long before we were all ready to call it a night, knowing we needed to be up again for a 7 am breakfast and an 8 am drumming session.
We were drumming for the children’s trail run for the final day, with another stunning sunrise ascending behind the mountains. Although we had worked tirelessly throughout the weekend, we put all our energy into the last half-hour set, and it felt amazing. I could even hear our drumming echoing through the Austrian Alps.
Throughout the weekend, I was inspired by the drum lifters in our group. I have been in Batala Lancaster for two years now, and all I have ever wanted to do was to try drum lifting. My bandmate from back home, Dan P, has been incredibly encouraging, but I lacked the confidence to attempt it during a live gig. I approached Antonio from Batala Badajoz and George from Batala Creta to teach me their drum lifting tips and tricks, and I practised whenever I could over the weekend.
When we played that last half-hour set, I never imagined that when Antonio urged me to lift my drum, I would actually have the courage to try. I couldn’t believe it, I did it! I lifted my drum into the air, held it steadily, and struck it with my beater. The smile on my face as I brought my drum down was from ear to ear.
The sense of achievement was overwhelming, and I cherished that moment, especially as it happened in such a beautiful setting and with the support of my new bandmates and seeing the proud look on my husband’s face. While I wouldn’t yet consider myself a seasoned drum lifter, as I have much more practice, I look forward to joining in on the drum-lifting fun.
As the final set concluded, we said our goodbyes and began the five-hour journey back to Vienna. I want to say a heartfelt thank you to Snezana for being our driver, and to Lorenzo and everyone else who attended for putting me at ease and making John and myself feel so welcome and accepted. Another thank you to Katrin for her excellent communication regarding this Mundo event and for always being there to answer my questions. John and I haven’t stopped talking about what an incredible time we had. It seems that John may have caught the Mundo bug, as he’s signed up for our Batala Lancaster taster workshop to have a go at the caixa. Whether or not he ultimately joins, this is a fantastic outcome for me.
This was such an unforgettable and inspirational trip that cemented my passion for drumming, nature and making new connections. This experience will forever hold a special place in my heart – until we meet again.