What is XR Rhythms UK?

XR Rhythms UK is a network of activist percussion bands that support environmental and social justice protest in the UK. We are part of Extinction Rebellion, and inspired by Rhythms of Resistance.

We believe that we must unite to demand a stop to the fossil fuel economy that is making our planet unliveable.

There are at least 40 bands in the UK, which means there’s probably one near you!

XR Rhythms drum at fossil fuel insurer Lloyd’s of London.

“Rhythms” or “Samba”?

As activist samba-fusion bands like Rhythms of Resistance (RoR) have been commonly referred to as “samba bands” in the UK, we were originally called XR Samba. However, after consulting with musicians and other people with knowledge of samba, including people from Brazil, we decided that this wasn’t an accurate description of what we play. It’s particularly important that we recognise this as samba is a part of the cultural identity of Black Brazilians whose ancestors were enslaved.

Although our music uses some samba instruments and rhythms, most of us don’t have the social and cultural connections to Brazil to faithfully represent samba, and a lot of what we play isn’t samba-inspired at all. Because of this, in 2022 we chose to rename our national group to XR Rhythms. This name recognises that our samba inspiration comes through RoR instead of through a direct connection to Brazil.

This name change only applies to our national group, not every band in the network, as bands have the freedom to decide what’s best for them.


What XR Rhythms bands play is samba-fusion music. Brazilian samba includes various genres of music and music culture. Activist samba-fusion is not a traditional samba genre, but a style created by activists in London to be easy to learn and to combine samba with other musical influences. Authentic Brazilian samba has always been political, beginning as the music played by Black and working-class Brazilians at celebrations like carnivals and saint’s days. These celebrations claimed space for joy and resistance.

In 1996, Chris Knight, an anthropologist from the University of East London, worked with the London School of Samba to form an activist band called Barking Bateria after seeing the Liverpool School of Samba playing at protests. A sister band, Rhythms of Resistance, was formed by Reclaim the Streets activists, and would begin an international samba-fusion activism movement. This photo shows the “pink bloc” banner during the anticapitalist protests at the Prague International Monetary Fund and World Bank summit in 2000. RoR’s role in the protests is documented in the short film Tactical Frivolity + Rhythms of Resistance.

In 2018, Jake Slocombe and Pedro Brace brought some people and some drums together to make the first Extinction Rebellion band during the October Declaration of Rebellion in London, using Rhythms of Resistance as an inspiration. The bands spread from small groups in London and Bristol to a national network that can bring hundreds of people to protests.

XR Rhythms is a crucial part of the climate activism movement because we bring a fun, carnival atmosphere to protests that can lift spirits and diffuse tense situations. Although it’s not always appropriate to have a band at quieter and more serious demonstrations, when we are invited to a protest we help people claim space for nonviolent resistance.

We also help people who want to get involved in environmental and social justice protest find a place for themselves. No experience and very little time commitment is necessary to join a band. Most bands practice for a couple of hours once a week or every few weeks, and will usually have spare instruments. You’ll immediately have something to do in Extinction Rebellion and a friendly group to do it with!