This morning was slightly colder than usual and also more overcast. I am getting more and more familiar with the city. I haven’t seen enough of it obviously… but all in good time. This time I did not loose my way. I reached well in time and thought I’d shift places so that I got a different perspective to class. I took my notebook and pen out, had my djembe in front of me and I was ready for class with Famoudou Konate (or so I thought…)
You know how an event is truly international? Of course when there are participants from all over the world. Agreed. As we waited for Famoudou to enter, I got talking to the person sitting next to me and found out that she has not only visited India but, been to Pune. She had  performed in Pancard clubs, Baner Road, for New Years 2004, as a Michael Jackson impersonater. Next, sometime during the day I met an individual who played a bit of cora (traditional West-African harp like instrument) and worked with the great A.R Rahman. These two things just fuelled my truly international yet homely experience.
Within minutes Famoudou’s djembe took its rightful place in class which meant the the master was not far. He has a simple, beautiful djembe with a beautiful message. This  is what it looks like.

I saw Famoudou scribble a few words before  he started class. We played a rhythm called ‘Arogan’, or literally ‘Arrogant.’The song actually spreads the message of being humble since we are all born equal. We must be like nature, open, giving and unconditional.

What is very typical of Famoudou is his organic, very haphazard yet very comprehensive and detailed method of teaching. By now since I have been exposed to none other than  Mamady who is a very structured teacher, Famoudou’s technique was new, was like a journey, non-stop and literally like a work-out. We did not know how four hours whizzed by but for this amazing buzz in  our hands and hearts at the end of the session.

Famoudou explained that in the then polygamous society how there would be arrogance in the youngest (newest) wife of a man and jealousy amongst the other wives; how there would be arrogance in a man who is tall, well-built and strong and how this song and this rhythm  is played to say, ‘don’t be arrogant.’ The words of the song are:

Moso Kenya Kenya (Beautiful Woman)

Kani Yereke (Don’t be Arrogant)

Yo Ala Midan

Den Mosoni Kenya Kenya

Kani Yereke Yo Ala Midan

This is what the song sounds like: Arogan

Now, I have not seen such a vibrant, colourful and animated teacher in a long long time… Famoudou takes you on a journey with his sessions. To start off, we played some call and response exercises to test out respective levels. Little did we know that each of the phrases that he was playing culminated into what was the solo phrases that was traditionally played for this rhythm. As we grasped the first djembe accompaniment Famoudou switched into  the song where he invited some women to dance in a circle. The dance did resemble our dandiya/garba dances quite a bit but for the peculiar and typical shoulder and hip movements that’s commonly associated with West-African Dance. Throughout the class Famoudou was like a butterfly; walking, dancing, playing djembe and one thing is constant – his smile. There is something about this master’s aura. He played complex roll’s with composed poise, explained history of the rhythms with utmost detail and demonstrated the ‘arrogant woman walk’ with the grace of a dancer. Don’t believe me…? Come, have a look see…

If you’re wondering how he’s being so convincing…he’s using plastic water bottles for some help in the, ahem, pectoral area!
After two hours, we took a small break all we were left with was a wide grin from  ear to ear and hands that were feeling alive and charged. A well deserved snack and drink break followed after.
I have probably done this in my last two entries but I want to take a moment to mention the warmth and openness of the Tam Tam Mandingue family. Apart from Mamady and Famoudou the entire staff and all the TTM certified teachers have been and continue to be amazing sources of information and help to any participant. You all know Tara Tucker from Drum Up Big from my previous votes of thanks (It’s her birthday today – so Happy Birthday to the meanest Tasmanian Djembefollette-devil there is). To add to this Hiroki Murai from Folikan, director of TTM Fukuoka, Japan – djembefola extraordinaire and a thorough gentleman. Michael Taylor from Holygoat Percussion, director of TTM Chicago; he has released a very valuable DVD for all aspiring djembefola’s out there. Check out his link for more. It is these people, amongst others like Jeremy (TTM Belgium), Pierre Chaillan (TTM Isreal) who will be taking the mission of West-Africa forward. I appreciate their warmth, support, love and un-conditionality greatly. Thanks guys!
Next, we were playing dununs. And it reminded me of the Djembe Lessons For Beginners I take back home. As we went through the dunun parts, the professors were laying down some wicked djembe solo’s that would keep distracting me… in a very inspiring way of course; I was completely enjoying my dunun experience. Soon, Famoudou was out in the other hall dancing like a beautiful ballerina. He seemed to be in his own world and before we knew it, most of us were in it. A bunch of the participants, were bit by the dancing bug and they were following Famoudou’s every move. This was trippy. At the end  of the four hours, we had gone through djembe accompaniments, history, solo sections, dunun sections and even dance steps of ‘Arogan.’
With the same energy, gusto and youthful smile that he entered with, Famoudou said, “à demain,” and his session was called to a close.
Since I wanted to take in all I could from the workshop I sat through the advance class as well; of course due to lack of space, we were allowed to wait by the side-walk; but it was worth every minute. Mamady started with a song as well and a very beautiful one at that. I will put up the song with it’s words and meanings soon. To me, this rhythm has an addictive dunun pattern. The Dununba was the backbone keeping everybody in time while the Sangban and Kenkeni conversed with each other through the rhythm. Here’s audio proof of why I said it was worth it:
Tomorrow we continue with Mamady Keita.
What a ride this is going to be…
Come. Drum. Be One.
Taal Inc.