Monday, June 15, 2009


This weekend I had the opportunity to attend a drumming workshop taught by Mamady Kourouma, aka Wadaba.

Wadaba is from a village in Guinea and it was great fun to be able to get a different perspective on the djembe.

We started on Friday evening with a song called Sotemabandani. Since Friday was only a couple of hours, we didn't learn the dun dun parts, just three accompaniments and some solo phrases. I liked how he structured the class. At one point he divided us into three sections and we swapped the accompaniments so we each got to try all three. What a sound! We had three folks on the dun duns..... Alan Tauber was on the dununba, and two other teachers from the Drum Connection were on the Sangban and Kenkeni.

For the solo phrases, Wadaba just played and we mimicked. For this song, I found it pretty straight forward and was easily able to copy what he was playing. That lulled me into a false sense of security because the next day I got my ass kicked, LOL.

Saturday's workshop was a full day, starting at noon and running until 5 pm. That gave us plenty of time to dig into another song, Subamasoli.

This time we started on the bass drums. I had no problem learning the Sangban and Kenkeni parts because the bell patterns corresponded to the drum strokes in a very straightforward way. On the dununba pattern, however, I was completely flumoxed. I never did get the whole thing together and wound up just ignoring the bell and playing the drum. (It's that whole walk and chew gum issue, LOL. It is a very painstaking process for me to get to the point of doing two things at once with my hands.)

Again, we split into three groups and we got to play each of the bass parts in turn. What a blast!

Next, the djembe. This time, Wadaba showed us just one simple accompaniment pattern, but even that got tricky because he had half of us playing it on the up beat and the other half on the down beat. The resulting rhythm was incredibly complex, especially when laid over the three bass drums.

Things got REALLY challenging when we moved on to the solo phrases. I managed to hang on pretty well for a few of them, but then he pulled out a series of very complex rhythms in a single phrase and for the life of me I couldn't play them. He was going full steam ahead and I was hanging on for dear life. Fortunately, the players around me had better luck with the parts and managed to hold us up pretty well.

At the end of the class, we learned the lyrics to the song and did call and response with each other. For a brief time we even played accompaniment while we sang. (Another walk and chew gum moment for me, sigh.)

All in all, it was a great experience to study with a Guinea Master. I learned a lot even in a short time. And the funniest part was the next day at my regular drum class, I felt much more confident in my skills, even though I had messed up so much at the Wadaba workshop.

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