Dance class started 15 minutes earlier than scheduled so that we had time to cool down before our Djembe session with Mamady would begin. Very thoughtful, but this meant a half hour less of sleep… (A sacrifice well worth it as you will soon discover). With groggy eyes, I went to the breakfast buffet and decided to be smart and have only fruits so as to fuel my body with the right nutrients to make it move gracefully and rhythmically…

We started with a warm up routine with the rhythm Djansa. This one is one of my personal favourites and I pretty much danced my way up to the venue. Sekou is a perfectionist and it shows it in his every mannerism. Having said this, he makes sure that everybody in the class is with him, leaving nobody behind. This is what makes a great teacher.

‘If you can talk you can sing, if you can walk you can dance!’ This was put to test today for all of us. There students of all levels in the class. As a first time participant, apart from the basic moves (which were achievable), I was trying to absorb as much of the micro movements of the smaller sets of muscles that made the dance step come alive. “Lead this step with your rib cage,” said Sekou. I couldn’t even begin to fathom how this was possible, as I start realizing the existence of new muscle groups in my body.

We then moved to a super groovy rhythm called Sente, of the Nalu ethnic group. This is a baby-christening rhythm. Almost all ceremonies that have to do with a baby or infant are done in witness of Sente. Up until now I thought that keeping track of the pyramid class patterns were difficult, but the choreography, purely because of my lack of exposure to the same, sure took the cake. I find it extremely important that a Djembefola knows the dance and the dancer knows the Dunun and Djembe parts. Only then does the rhythm come together. As we performed the steps with the breaks, this realization became clearer and clearer.

The session ended with the entire group being divided in two halves and a final run through of our short sequence followed by a customary salute to the musicians who supported us through the class providing live energy through their playing… This is something I am used to considering that it is the first thing a Bharatnatyam dancer or a Kathak dancer (traditional Indian classical dances) will do before starting his or her performance. Oh what a beautifully invigorating way to start the day…

After a quick cooling down session (for me = bath) I quickly made my way back to the class for the advance class with Mamady. We immediately started the Malinke rhythm of ‘Koma’. This is the name of a mask that belongs to a secret community of the Mandingue. In Guinea this rhythm is not allowed to be played without the permission of this community. This is the reason Mamady did not teach this rhythm for a large part of his teaching career. The unveiling of this mask could be seen only by the members of this secret community. This experience is said to be the most powerful fetish that one can find. The spirit of the mask is said to protect the village from evil spirits and is used for healing. The rhythm is a traditional one but the technique has been created by Mamady himself.

* In my last blog I had put up short MP3s of the rhythms played. Now, since I am blogging from an iPad I find it difficult to sort out all the format conversions and things to put everything up given the time constraints. I will however, do this once I am back in India in one consolidated blog update.

After our class, just when I thought I would get some rest… I heard Mamady start the rhythm ‘Sewa’ with the Intermediate class. Whether it was the rhythm or my insatiable hunger for djembe rhythms, i still don’t know but I soon found myself beside the class lawns practising my dance moves courtesy Mr. Sekou from Portland.

Later, Koumbana my roommate (who has been christened so by Mohammed Bangoura after the great Sangban player Kumbana Konte) and I went around town on my royal steed in search of the best percussion instruments Bali could offer us.

We made sure to get back in time to fortify a decent seat for the Pyramid class. Before I continue, a special mention must be made to Kelvin and TTM Singapore (Lila Drums), the TTM directors and the Bhanuswari Resort for the impeccable care taken for every minute detail in terms of the organization of this entire workshop despite mental and physical fatigue. Hats off to you all.

So far in the pyramid class we finished Kudani and Kuruni. Today we added Fe’ (number 2) and some wicked technique patterns from the heart of the Wassolon Region, from where Mamady hails. It took us a while to get past the last humdinger of a half-loose-flam roll phrase but all’s well that ends well and this called for some celebration. So, after dropping Sekou to the TTM villa (since he wanted to get a taste of a Bali bikers experience), team Australia (represented by Jeff, Robin, Simone and Jack) and team India/China (yours truly and Kumbana) decided to treat ourselves to some jazz at the bar in Ubud.

The evening was full of Latin passion, salsa, West-African dance practice, down beats, singing and a whole lot of muffi… Pardon me, monkeying around.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the long, physical workout of a day but by having a dip in the pool that was outside my room.

God bless Bali and the wonderful energy at this Djembe workshop…

This brings to 50% of our workshop and once again time is flying by like it does during most pivotal times in life.

Anisu everybody!

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.