Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome to the Big Bang!

I decided that I was posting way too much about drumming over on my Jesus Freak blog, The Big Dunk. So I thought I would break off a blog just for djembe. This one, appropriately enough, is called the Big Bang!

To start us off, here is a brief history of drumming in my life:

I am a stay at home mother of 2 little boys, very active in my church and sell kitchen tools at home parties on the side. About 6 months ago, some of the kids from our church went on a mission trip to South Africa. It blew their minds! One of the biggest things that affected them was the music of South Africa. It inspired us to add drumming to our church service one Sunday. I liked it!

Then, on another Sunday morning, a group of folks were drumming on the church steps before the service and I happened by and they had an extra drum. I sat down to play with them and discovered I loved it!

This inspired me to buy a drum. I walked into the Guitar Center here in RI and bought the cheapest goatskinned djembe I could find. It was a Toca. $100 bucks. Mahogany shell. Cheaply made but sounded ok to my virgin ears. (Now I know better, LOL)

I brought the drum home and realized that I would need a teacher to learn to play it, so I googled "djembe teacher RI" and lo and behold there was a listing for a teacher from Mali, right at Black Rep, which is half a block from my church. It said that the classes were drop in, cost $10 and were at 7pm on Monday nights. All good for me: inexpensive, easy to get to, and most important, on a night I don't usually do kitchen tools shows.

So the next Monday, I timidly showed up at Black Rep. My teacher, Sidy Maiga, was very friendly. We met down in the basement. There were three of us students. The other two had clearly been practicing for several weeks because they knew all the rhythms and could play steadily. I was a mess. I simply could NOT make my hands do what they were supposed to. I felt very uncomfortable that I was holding back the other two students. I messed up a lot. I forgot what I was supposed to be doing. I kept using the wrong hand or hitting the wrong area of the drum. I noticed that my drum had a loud overtone ring, which meant it needed tuning. All in all, it was a mortifying experience.

But I was hooked! I loved the sound of the drums together. I couldn't believe what a great player my teacher was. And in the moments when my self consciousness receded, I got hints of what it would be like to actually be able to play this crazy instrument.

All the way home I had one of the many rhythms in my head, so when I got home, I quickly wrote it down so I could practice it.

The following week, I noticed that it was easier. I picked up much faster. I didn't mess up as much. Something seemed to have clicked in my head.

And so it was, that over the course of the summer, I went every week and noticed that I got better and better... and that I loved it. Truly loved it. I managed to talk my friend Lucia into coming to the classes with me. She, too, had a hard time in the beginning, but after awhile we got pretty good together. For most of the summer, Lucia and I were Sidy's only students. We fretted that he would cancel the class. We talked about it with everyone to try and get more students. We told him we would pay him more. But he recognized we were serious about it and was willing to hang in with us, even though it meant a very small paycheck.

I have posted extensively about this on my other blog, but now I want to have a place to explore drumming in more depth. I welcome input from other drummers. I hope that this can be a source of information and conversation. Mostly I want to be able to share this amazing experience so I can encourage others to find their inner musicians.

Bang on, my friends!


Singing Owl said...

I hadn't seen this blog yet, but I wish I was nearby. I'd go to class with you. We had a guy in our church a few years ago who had a djembe and I LOVED it. Maybe....hmmm...

Rachel said...

Singing Owl,

All I can say is DO IT! Find someone. Find someone from Africa if you can. But even if you can't, find someone. It is definitely a joyful noise!

I just googled 'Djembe classes RI' and found my teacher. God will send you the right one, LOL!