Friday, January 18, 2008

The good, the bad and the not-so-ugly

The second time anyplace is always easier than the first. Now I am not a newcomer. I recognized people at the Blackstone River Theater drum circle last night. The belly dancer. The guy with the orange congas. The facilitator. The older women who introduce themselves by their spirit names.

Lots of new faces too, including a guy I recognized from Sidy's class. He came only once, but played Dansa pretty darn well. Last night he had a dun dun that he made out of a barrel. It was great.

There were a couple of other djembe players there. One mild mannered guy with a nice, out of tune drum. And another guy who came with his djembe and what I think was sort of an electric blue bougarabou who proceeded to tune his drums right there in front of God and everyone. He was using a boat clamp to pull the ropes, which reminds me that I want to stop by the marine store and pick one of those up for my teacher.

So, the good: I love any opportunity to play. We went on for three hours straight and it is excellent practice to try and find rhythms within rhythms, especially for someone with no percussion background at all. There were points when I really started to play with variations on the rhythm and that is fun. But, I am definitely NOT solo material at this point. I tend to find a rhythm and stick to it for dear life. I make a good backup djembe player, I think.

The bad: I think it is that nature of a drum circle, with it's wide range of skills, that the rhythms tend to be very simple and almost plodding. By the end of the night I was getting a bit bored with the sound. It is particularly true when you compare the simple drum circle stuff to the wonderfully rich and complex rhythms of West Africa. For me, the absolute highlight of the night was when blue bougarabou guy struck up a West African rhythm that a couple of other folks apparently knew. Much livelier.

I considered playing the accompaniment to Sounou to get things going, but I learned last time that if a rhythm is too dense, people find it hard to jump in. Maybe next time.

The beautiful: I love the belly dancers! It is so much fun to play for people who are dancing to your music.

Oh, and one other thing. My drum is still tuned way up and man is it LOUD. I had a very hard time trying to stay in the background. Next time I go, I am either bringing the Toca or tuning down my African drum a bit.

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