Thursday, October 25, 2007
Take one African drumming teacher, 60 drums and a gymnasium full of squirmy kids, mix in a bit of rhythm and what do you have?
Today was an unforgettable experience. I had arranged for my drumming teacher to come to my kids' elementary school and teach drumming, over the course of the day, to 240 kids. It was daunting, I will admit. The logistics alone were terrifying. Sidy only owns 20 drums or so, so he spent the last week scrambling around looking to borrow or rent the other 40. Unfortunately his normal resource wasn't able to supply them... so the hunt was on. As recent as a day ago we worried we wouldn't find enough. But desperate calls to a friend in Boston yielded the last 10.
This morning I got to school at 8:00 and started bringing the drums down from the stage and onto the floor. Sidy arrived at 8:15 and I nearly fell over when I saw him. He was wearing a beautiful ankle length blue cotton robe with matching pants. It is clothing from the desert region of Mali and I have to say, it made quite an impression. He had another 10 drums in his car, so we unloaded and started setting up.
I have to be honest here. I know that he is an incredible teacher... but I really wasn't sure how he would be with kids. Kids can be a tough audience sometimes. He began by explaining that his English wasn't very good, but then went on to describe how important drumming was in Africa before the advent of radio, television and cell phones. Then he talked a little about how the drums are constructed, showing the kids the rings, the goatskin and the rope bindings.
And then the magic happened. He started to play. The kids were completely mesmerized. They followed every beat, every nuance. It was hard for them to get the rhythms because it was such a big circle and they really couldn't see his hands... but nonetheless, they got the beat and managed to synchronize very well. I didn't know any of the rhythms, so it was great fun for me to learn along with them. Sidy was acutely aware when the kids began to drift and then he would play with them, speeding up and slowing down.... quiet, quiet, tiny tiny tiny... then BLAM, huge fast beats. The kids were enthralled. Heck, I was too. I LOVED seeing the teachers getting into it! One woman was so good I collared her after and gave her his class information.
Two newspaper reporters showed up- one from the Providence Journal and one from the Warwick Beacon. I think they, too, were blown away at this fantastic drumming pied piper and his 60 awestruck kids. (And one awestruck middle aged redhead, LOL)
Towards the end of the day, my husband Nguyen showed up with his camera and took dozens of photos.
I played one of Sidy's drums for the day and realized then and there that a cheap Indonesian drum with a Pakistani goatskin was not going to fit the bill any longer. It is time for a real djembe. So after the classes, I asked him to choose one of the ones he reheaded this week and I'll buy it from him. He said he would pick one out for me and bring it to class on Monday. I can't wait. (I'll change my picture once I get a photo of it!)
Sidy did 5 sessions today. It was grueling, really. But afterwards, after we hauled 40 drums back up to his 2nd floor apartment, after I came home and collapsed on the sofa, I was still so excited I couldn't eat dinner.
It feels like a miracle that at this stage in my life I would find something that I love so much. It feels like a gift beyond measure. A gift from God.