Of Drum Groups and All-Night Jams
...tracing the beginnings
of my personal journey (1991-96) with...
African Drumming, Drum Rhythm Groups, Jamming and
Creator wants us to drum. He wants us to corrupt the world with
drum, dance and chants. Afterall, we have already corrupted the
world with power and greed....which hasn't gotten us anywhere
- now's the time to corrupt the world with drum, dance and chants."
a Drum Group
A bunch of us
where I live have been playing African drums now for six years.
This is nothing by African standards; but you do what you can. The
first workshop happened here, sparking our engagement ever since,
and a number of excellent teachers have passed through the area
boosting our skills periodically: notably Fatala and Alpha Yaya
Diallo. Three of us have taken Olatunji's week-long workshop at
Hollyhock: for me providing the biggest jump in skill and understanding.
learned to work with multi-part rhythms. Each part by itself is
easy to learn, in these traditional African and Latin pieces. But
the timing between the parts creates the dynamic tension which drives
them, and the difficulty in mastering as a group. Still, four or
five of us through regular weekly practices brought a half-dozen
selections up to performance level over the course of three or four
years. After a public performance at the local fall faire in September
1994, and a studio taping session soon after, we finally lost steam
and fell apart, and have met only sporadically since, with turnover
of half the core group. Why?
Part of it has
to do with individual energies and priorities, but part of it has
to do with the nature of what we were attempting. A month of intensive
twice-a-week practices before that fall faire, and the attendant
pressure to perform well at the time, caused some of us enormous
anxiety that carried over afterward. I flubbed a couple of notes
in my own part once or twice, and felt terrible about it--even though
people in the crowd (you could hardly even call them an audience,
wandering around the fair grounds doing their own thing) never noticed.
Our subsequent studio session came off perfectly. A local guitarist,
probably the best musician around, had the best advice to offer:
mere proficiency at the rhythms is not enough to engage an audience.
We played, at best, like machines. That kind of music would work
okay for trance or ritual but for a contemporary crowd, whether
listening or dancing, you need the added dynamism of a soloist,
which we lacked with our inexperience.
2007 update: Grow your own drum and dance group