Thursday, April 24, 2008

Learning a new rhythm

I love learning a new rhythm, even when it is so hard I cry.

When, at 3am, I wake up in the night with a rhythm playing in my head. Learning to sing a new rhythm. Using the stretched membranes of my vocal cords as a miniature drum to create the tones and sounds of a complicated pattern. In this I am learning the drum language of my teacher. Not the predictable (but useful) go do pa ta of the Nigerians, but the 'biddy ba, biddy biddy ba' of Mali. Or maybe it is just Sidy's drum language, but it is the one I am learning to speak.

I love driving home from class with a fresh rhythm in my heart, playing it on the steering wheel so I won't forget it before I get home.

Hearing Sidy play a new rhythm. I want to pull close, closer still, as though if I am right there, right there next to him, I will hear it more clearly... it will sink in more completely. I will smell it and feel it and sense it better. Because when he plays it, the sounds dance and sing, his drum's voice teases and cajoles and beckons my drum to follow.

I love the feel of the skin, even when my hands are sore. I close my eyes and feel the goat's backbone skin, thicker and, on my drum, curved, like a meandering path that leads to sonic bliss.

I love when I turn the corner on a rhythm. When it goes from unintelligible movements and sounds to a pattern. When I can spontaneously sit at a drum and just 'remember' the pattern without having to think about it. When it becomes woven into the fabric of my being and suddenly, unexpectedly, it is mine.

I love learning a new rhythm.

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