This was where we were to spend three weeks drumming…
“Today is an exam for everybody”, Mamady said to start off the workshop in the morning…. ‘No pressure’, I thought to myself… 😉
We played Lekule and Tiriba for Mamady to be able to assess the level of the group on the whole. I could sense the tension in the group. Some of the participants were new and some old friends of the djembe. None passed the keen eye of Mamady unnoticed. Mamady usually gives the group the djembe accompaniments and then walks around the circle observing your every move very carefully. Many a seasoned percussionist has cracked under the pressure of this man’s unequivocal attention. The session ended with Mamady dividing the two groups into intermediate and advanced. I fell in the advanced group.
That afternoon we had Africa’s famous peanut sauce with rice and chicken for lunch (Maffe Poulet – my favourite Senegalese preparation from the Bambara people who traditionally hail from Mali). I could not get enough of the sauce which would probably not be too great for my heart if I ate it every day but well, I couldn’t care less about it while I was licking my fingers.
I was also very happy to meet Doug Manuel, head of Sewa Beats at the workshop. Ever since I started Taal Inc., I’ve noticed many companies sprout in India and the rest of the world. Sewa Beats is the only company whose ideology and philosophy stood out then as I learned about their extensive work in the field of training. Doug was there with his family for a few days and would be a part of our class for as long he was there. He is a good drummer and I’m very positive about our meeting and look forward to a very healthy journey together.
In the evening djembe session we started working on the pyramid of rhythm by Mamady Keita. He has been creating these pyramid performances for a long time (1977 being the year of his first ever pyramid of rhythm creation). This particular pyramid, ‘Kudani’, was created by Mamady as a tribute to his grandmother. Kudani was the name of his grandmother. The pyramid is fresh in my mind as I learned and performed it in Bali and also in India (at dumru, the drum festival of India with the Taal Inc. Rhythm Ensemble. I realized that we were going to perform this pyramid at the Abene festival on the 2nd of January 2012. What an honour- to play djembe in Abene before hundreds of people who will realize that the djembe really knows no borders; a successful day for Mamady’s mission.
That night we set out to watch the Abene Festival 2012. The theme of this year’s festival is ‘environment’. With every performance there was a short skit about the environment. Each performance goes on for an hour starting at 9pm and ending at midnight (this means 10:00pm – 1/1:30am in the morning by African time). After this, everyone heads into the disco where the DJ takes over. Amongst the genres of music played is, commercial house, reggae and sabar (traditional Senegalese drumming music). The party ends as the sun rises. This goes on for a week. Phew. The audience is amazingly participative for every performance at the festival. There are dancers, the festival clown and more… At the end of each performance the crowd gets involved and goes on stage and takes turns to ‘echauff’ (or heat up) the rhythm with the ensemble. I feel blessed to have this opportunity to witness this at such close proximity.
Come. Drum. Be One.