Sunday, December 23, 2007

Another RI drum circle

The place I have been dropping in for classes also offers a drum circle on the 4th Saturday of the month.

Last night I checked it out.

Drum circles, in general, are a completely different vibe from classes. It is a sort of free flowing thing where someone starts a rhythm and as you feel drawn to, you jump in. At Free Spirit, in Warren, the atmosphere is very subdued. The lights are dim, there is a ton of incense. The space is intimate and quiet, with candles set up in a sort of altar in the middle of the floor. There is a good selection of drums to borrow, but of course, I brought mine.

I would say, at this point, that there are definitely things I like about playing in a drum circle. It is wonderful practice to just relax and let myself find a rhythm. I worked several of my African rhythms in and it was a lot of fun to see how they could fit into someone else's starting point. It was great to play for long periods, too. At one point the rhythm was very fast and hard and I was playing fast and hard, too, for quite a long time. It was good and sweaty. This morning, in fact, I woke up sore! I also liked that at one point I felt comfortable trying a little solo action and I think it worked just fine. I also tried playing one of the Sounou parts on the duns and that was a fun (and very different) experience.

What I don't like about drumming circles is that there seems to be very little interaction between the players. Especially at the one last night, everyone pretty much spaces out to their own thing. Their eyes are closed and they are off in their own worlds. The sounds played together, but there was no interaction between us, which is a HUGE contrast to what it is like to play in a class with my African teacher. In Africa, the drums are all about bringing people together. With Sidy, we are smiling and nodding and grooving together in the class and totally having a ball with each other. I admit that I really missed that aspect of playing last night. I felt very solitary, even in a room with 9 or 10 other people. I wonder if it is partly because I am new to the group?

In any case, at the end of the evening, I was glad I got a chance to play and will likely go back next month.

The details:

Check out the website for more info-

Free Spirit

4th Saturday of the month
8pm to 1am
Warren RI.

See you there!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A good teacher

Here's the thing about playing with a great djembe player. It forces you to play better than you would otherwise. I have noticed, lately, that while practicing I am not able to hold the rhythm as well as when I play in class or with my teacher. Something happens when playing with others that sort of forces me to hold up my end of the djembe conversation.

I think part of it is that my teacher uses my rhythm to create a structure for his solos. He plays in and out and around my accompaniment. He is good enough that he could do this even if I completely bomb. But when I don't bomb, it is incredibly thrilling to play together in that way.

It has helped to record myself playing. Then I can hear just how wobbly I sound and work to correct it. But that still doesn't substitute for playing with a good teacher.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Snow! Sleet! Rain!

I had a previous engagement today, so I was going to have to miss going to Warren and sitting in on the class there. But, YES! The party got postponed. But NO. The class got canceled too.

Sigh. I am such a drumming junky I was willing to drive through horrendous winter weather in order to sit with fellow skin addicts and play for an hour and a half.

As it is, I have found a fun little program for practicing. Audacity is a freeware audio program that lets you record and edit separate tracks. Since I am using a set of headphones with a mic attached, I can record layers of tracks on top of one another. Which means I can lay down an accompaniment rhythm and then solo over it and hear what it sounds like. This is GREAT fun.

Perhaps I'll work on some today and upload it for your listening pleasure. Scared? You should be!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

When I play my drum

the smell of the goatskin gets stronger. Afterwards, my hands smell like the skin. I love that.

I found out that Famoudou Konate will be teaching a workshop in Boston this coming June. I think I will sign up. It will be a bit intense having to commute from RI since the class gets out at 10pm.... but I think it will be amazing to work with him. And fun to be in a class with people who are all better than me!

I miss my classes today.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Plays well with others

Yesterday I went to a drumming class with my friend Vera. She has been going for several months to a class in Warren, RI. The teacher is an American. There were 5 of us students. It was a very different vibe from what I am used to with Sidy.

First, the pace was very laid back. The class is scheduled for an hour and a half, but apparently usually goes on for much longer. We spent lots of time just sitting between playing. Chilling, I think, would be the technical term. The structure of the class was that we worked on a single piece and learned the parts for djembe 1 and 2, plus the dunun and bell. Then, when we were able to keep that going for awhile, the teacher played some solo phrases.

For me, it was a good challenge because it is normally hard for me to pick up a new rhythm the first time I try it. Since these were accompaniment parts,they were simpler than what I usually do with Sidy... so within a few minutes I was able to play them. At one point, I was playing the djembe 2 part on my own, while the teacher played the duns and the other students played djembe 1. I was excited that I could get back on track when I messed it up a couple of times. I just picked it right back up.

I even tried the dunun at one point... but chickened out when it came to actually holding the rhythm for the whole class. I just didn't feel comfortable with it yet. Maybe next time!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Dansa Rhythms

For folks taking Sidy's class, I thought I would try and upload the Dansa rhythms. This is a very low quality recording done on an Olympus digital recorder. But it will help you remember the rhythms! This is Sidy playing.

Calling Mali 101

So, lets say you want to call your drumming teacher in Bamako to tell him all about your tones and slaps, but don't want to spend the $4.50 per minute it usually costs? What do you do?

You download Skype and call from your computer for about .27 per minute.

Over on the Djembefola forum, James turned me on to Skype and I have to say, it rocks. I tried it this morning and it worked perfectly.

I told my husband about it and he was very skeptical because the last time he was in Vietnam, the internet phone service was patchy and had a pronounced delay, which made conversations awkward. But today, calling Sidy, it sounded great. No delay and very little noise on the line. The download is free and the calls to other Skype members are free too. To call other phones varies depending on where you are calling... but to call Mali today was about $2.75 for 10 minutes.

I'll try it with Vietnam next and report back!

OK. Back to practicing my tones and slaps.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

News from Bamako

Got a brief call from Sidy today. He arrived safely after 2 days of travel and is home with the family. It sounds like all is well. I was happy to hear from him!

I have been working on my tones and slaps for the Sounou accompaniment. I can definitely play them differently... the trick is to teach my hands to do it without having to overthink it too much. The minute I focus in, I get lost in the midst of it and screw it up. I think, as I learn new pieces, I will try and play the slaps and tones right from the beginning, rather than just playing the generic 'non-bass' edge hits. It will be harder in the beginning, but in the long run, much better.

On Sunday evening we are having an informal drum circle at Grace church. I am looking forward to it. I am already going through major withdrawals and I haven't even officially missed a class yet.

Speaking of Grace, if you are in RI, come to one of our Wednesday evening services. They are beautiful. We sing and pray in candlelight and then share the Lord's supper together. The service starts at 6:30 and goes for about 45 minutes. Corner of Matthewson and Westminster in Providence. Look for the priest standing outside. He'll invite you in!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

I don't want to work

I don't want to work
I want to bang on the drum all day
I don't want to play
I just want to bang on the drum all day

Todd Rundgren

I confessed to my friend Kathie that I am having a hard time motivating myself to work, lately. All I want to do is play my drum, take drum classes, play my drum some more. And maybe write about it all on my blog. She called me today and said that the Todd Rundgren tune was her ear worm for the day because she was thinking about me.

I added it up. Between the classes at Black Rep and Grace and my private lessons, I am taking 10 classes a month with Sidy. Add my practice time to that and no wonder the house looks like a herd of elephants traipsed through the living room. Dishes? Huh? You mean I am supposed to wash those?

So, am I obsessed? I think, uh, yeah.

The other day I showed my hands to my teacher. The bases and tips of all my fingers are completely calloused. I have dead skin flaking off. I stopped wearing my wedding ring months ago because I was afraid I'd lose it if I had to keep taking it off all the time. He laughed and said I am getting drummer's hands. Good thing I am not a hand model. I'd have to quit my job.

But I wouldn't mind because

I don't want to work. I want to bang on my drum all day.

Monday, December 3, 2007

And so it begins

My month off from drumming lessons.

I feel a little sad.

And even though it is 10:39 pm and my kids are asleep, I want to play.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Sidy has a new website

I am delighted to share my teacher's new site... created by yours truly with a little help from Yahoo!

Check it regularly for class schedules, performance information and anything else we can think to add.

In other news: Spent most of my lesson yesterday working on the breaks and pickups for the Sounou solo parts. Plus I learned a new part which I have been working on today. At some point I am going to figure out how to add sound to my blog so I can torment you all with my drumming. Ha!