Saturday, July 26, 2008

I just have to keep reminding myself

that humility is good for the soul.

I am not at all sure how humiliation ranks up there, but I will pray that it, too, is good, cause I sure have been getting a dose of it lately.

Sidy called me and asked if I wanted to play with him this afternoon. Yes! I said. Of course!

So he gave me directions and told me to meet him there at 4pm.

I was early. I pulled up to a park and realized with not a little horror that we were playing at the Nigerian Festival in Providence. As in, everyone in the audience is an African. As in, Oh My Freaking You-Know-What.

I tried not to get nervous. I tried to just remain calm and kept telling myself that Sidy wouldn't invite me if he didn't think I could do it. He wouldn't purposely set me up to fail, especially since it would make him look bad, too.

Lisa and Sidy showed up and we started to assemble under the trees. The stage was in the blazing sun, of course. (Why is that always the case, I wonder?) Another drummer, OB Addy, arrived to play with us. I know him from the Black Rep, and I was happy to see him.

We got on the stage and things started out ok. But I couldn't hear the dun duns or OB and I felt myself sliding off the beat. Sidy made a couple of attempts to get me back on, but finally, at one point he just told me to stop playing. On to the next piece. I swear, I felt like I had never picked up a drum before. I just wobbled around like a newborn goat up there. Somehow I managed to keep a smile plastered on my face, even as I was crashing like the Hindenburg.

I wonder if I will ever get better at this? Will I ever be competent enough so that I can play with Sidy without wanting to throw up afterwards? I told Sidy as we were heading out that I have to just get used to failure because if I let it get to me, I will put the drum down and never pick it up again.

Yup. Sucked in front of a hundred Africans. Good one.


Spinning said...

did you have any kind of stage monitors at all? It can be so hard to play well when the PA and monitors aren't set up properly... I played for years with a group that never, ever would spring for a proper monitor for hand percussion, and there were times I had to bend over and put my ear as close to my drumheads as possible without interfering with my hands - to hear just a tiny bit of what I was doing. (And I do mean "tiny.")

Also, did you guys have time for a sound check, or were you onstage without that? It's a pretty crucial thing. So if this set was fairly impromptu, I think any blame is off your shoulders completely. (And even if it wasn't spur of the moment, I really have a problem with the idea of going on cold like that.)

Don't beat yourself up, OK? You probably did better than you think. Really!

Rachel Nguyen said...

Oh, Spinning, thank you for your comment! No, we didn't do a sound check because we weren't miked. And when I was talking to Lisa, she reminded me that the stage was elevated, with nothing underneath it, so the sound was just sucked into oblivion.

As to the spur of the moment, that is how it is most of the time, so one of the skills I have to develop is the ability to back Sidy up in various situations. Lots of times he doesn't tell us what pieces we are playing, just plays the call and we jump into it. (That is pretty easy at this point as our repertoire is limited to 3 or 4 accompaniments!)

The day after the festival, during class, I was messing up the accompaniment to Dansa so badly that I actually had to excuse myself so I wouldn't start bawling in front of the whole class.

But yesterday I was back on and ready to go. This is really a remarkable process.

Thanks again for your comments!

Spinning said...

It does sound like a pretty intimidating situation for a newcomer, though. Am thinking that there's a cultural thing going on here (as far as how Sidy views gigs like this vs. how you and Lisa might), and maybe that's worth raising with him.

It *is* a shock to get onstage and not be able to hear yourself or others, and to some extent, there's no way you can prepare yourself for that, except through having had the experience - and knowing that things can and do often get messy, given the acoustics of a given place.

I'm sure you'll feel better about this as time goes on and you've got more gigs under your belt, so to speak.

Am also glad to hear that you're feeling better - you go, Rachel!!!