In 2007 primary health care nurse Kieran Monaghan, and Wellington percussionist Andreas Lepper, secured funding to start a health/music initiative at The Clubhouse. This venue has been a long term feature of the southern suburb of Newtown and is a peer support service by and for people who have past and/or present experiences of mental illness.
During Monaghan’s regular outreach health clinic’s, he noticed that there was a lot of music being made on a temperamentally rickety drum kit and an upright piano. He discussed with the manager at that time about establishing a more formal music workshop. Funding was obtain via Newtown Union Health Service and the then PHO SECPHO (now Well Health PHO). The group was set for every Friday and was a free event for members of the service to participate for as long as they wanted, in a way that accessible and embraced all levels of experience.
One member at the time, a young women called Iritana, offered the SENDAM when a name was trying to be imagined. The group was uncertain what SENDAM meant, though it did sound exotic and interesting. Iritana simply stated that SENDAM was MADNESS backwards (minus an S). This seemed perfect and appropriate. Turning madness on its head into something special, unique, and creatively rich.
And it has grown from there.
Five years on, we still rehearse every Friday, usually about 15 participants (tho this always varies during the course of the morning) and we have a few regulars from IDEA services who come to the Clubhouse especially to make music.
The music is predominantly drums, but now with the addition of guitars, piano, lyric writers, and spontaneous dance. The compositions are dynamic improvisations of the top of some generally agreed structure, but always the music shifts into unexpected, and often brilliant, domain.
In 2012 SENDAM held a fundraising concert at the Newtown Community and Cultural Centre to raise a few dollars to put towards a recording project. Benni Kreuger, recording technician from Tasman Records, was interested in working with the group and one Saturday SENDAM returned to the community centre to capture these recording.
A multi-headed rhythm beast arising in 2007 out of the murky depths of the South Wellington mental health scene, 12 years, seven practice rooms, 1 album, and countless performances later (including 10 or more outings at the Newtown Fair), the Ssendam Rawkustra are still going strong and are as raw, cuz, as ever! The Rawkustra aim to mesmorise listeners with their musical oxymoron of organised percussionistic chaos, drawing on a plethora of influences from Maurice Ravel to the Doors, under the inspired direction of maestro Andreas Lepper, with spiritual oversight from the Assistant Vicar of Newtown, Reverend Richard Noble.