Tuesday, June 9, 2009


This week, the weight of the loss of my friend has been hanging heavy around my heart. It is hard to explain to my friends and family why this has been so hard, particularly since they never knew him. They never met him. And they aren't drummers, either, so the intensity of the connection is lost on them.

But you are are a drummer. I suspect that maybe you understand.

Mazé was a Griot. For him, sharing his knowledge wasn't just about teaching a class. With no words, with no words, he invited me to join him on a journey to the dawn of his people's culture. In one rhythm, I caught glimpses of his soul.... and the soul of his people. He was wide open. He invited me in and welcomed me with open arms and calloused fingers.

When I came back from Mali with his drum, I brought a tiny sliver of his essence with me. When the head broke, I spend awhile taking the drum apart. It had big thick green ropes for the verticals. Diamond by diamond, years of tuning undone. The dust of a Bamako courtyard drifted off the ropes into my living room. The smell of the old skin. Stray goat hairs wafting in the afternoon light.

Off came the rings. Off came the knots on the bottom ring. There was no fabric wrapping, just brute steel. This is not a woman's drum. But it is now.

I gently sanded the wood, while it was naked. Savoring the fragrance of the hardwood as I leaned in to work on a detail. Then the tung oil, hand rubbed.

New rope. New cowskin. A little of my own soul, maybe. Mazé took a bit of it with him when he died, too.

I know how blessed I am to have been his student, his friend.

But God. God.

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