A thousand apoplogies for my delay in prompt daily blog entry updation. But as Day 5 started every thing gathered a new momentum and required my 100% percent presence for total honest recall in this blog and in my future of Djembe playing. Hence it is for the greater good! So here goes; this is how Day 5 started…

After a fruity breakfast of champions, we warmed up to Djansa once again, trying to be graceful, despite our rusty joints and muscles. We then went on to dance to the rhythm of Sunun (a.k.a Goi), a rhythm of the Kassounke people from Mali and the Kaye’s region. It is now a popular rhythm that is played in many festivals. The choreography was mellow in comparison to yesterday’s rhythm, Soko. This was an intentional choice by Sekou so that we could concentrate on the djembe rhythms and most importantly, the pyramid class. Come to think of it, the past three days I have been waking up early, drumming, dancing and meeting wonderful people on the similar path all the time… I sure hope to continue this discipline once I’m back in India.

Immediately after the dance class, we had our advance class session with Mamady. We finished the breaks and the technique phrases for Tiriba (the rhythm played yesterday) in class today.

This is what Mamady has made it sound like with his ensemble Sewakan:

We had our up and down moments through the session. Each time the group faltered, Mamady did not spoon feed us with the hand order or the sound but told us what we needed to hear to dig deep within and bring out what was necessary to get the break precisely and correctly.

It is amazing how Mamady can hear he sound of every drum very clearly through the crowd and make his judgements very calmly and calculatedly. He knows when to push and when to be soft and tolerant. I sense this when he works with simple parts with students of different levels. The crux of our learning was (is) to be clear about what we are playing and not hesitate or second guess ourselves; else we leave the group behind and the entire purpose of the ensemble is lost.

The Intermediate class after us finished their technique phrases for the rhythm Sewa. From a third persons perspective, he was pushing both groups to achieve way more than their league and hence push themselves to truly get better that their playing before a Mamady Keita workshop.

It was a busy and administrative afternoon for me after the intermediate class. As soon as I was back in the resort I went to the class venue and worked with some of the intermediate level students with some of the pyramid rhythm phases. I remembered how important this was (is) for me when I did not get my head completely around a rhythm or a phrase and I had no mentor to go to.

It was then time for our almost final pyramid class before the last evening ur with all the participants and for the special occasion of being witness to a Kechak dance performance. We got around reaching the end of our pyramid structure. Due to the lack of a sufficient amount of time we managed to do four rhythms with breaks and respective techniques in the rhythms.

On a personal note I am happy to know that my efforts during the recent past are going noticed. More importantly, I am aware of the path that lies ahead of me and the discipline I have to inculcate to make that dream / ambition a reality.

We reached a lovely venue with a large sloping roof for our dinner, apart from getting photos with new friends and old, from all over the world. Mamady led the evening with a toast to each and every person present in that venue for having dedicated a fraction or great deal of their lives to the mission of the Djembe; an instrument that knows no boundaries and does not discriminate. His mission is one of spreading joy and peace and awareness of culture, of nature and it’s great powers.

As we finished dinner the Kechak performers got ready and a large group of performers came to the stage while singing a highly syncopated acapela ‘keChak ‘ , ‘keChak ‘ part while one person kept a pulse with a ‘Shirr Po’ sound and depicting the entire story of the Ramayana, an ancient story from Indian Hindu mythology. Amongst the dancers were Lord Hanuman, Lord Ram and Ravana. They have a beautiful but slightly different version of the depiction of the Ramayana and I will point out this difference once I have done some basic research on the version I have grown up with. Until then this is what it looked and sounded like:

They looked so amazingly in sync with each other that their parts seemed almost random yet minutely precise.

Here’s what they looked like:

As a result of impeccable planning by TTM Singapore staff, we were pre divided into groups to go and come back from the venue. Thanks to my chat with my carpooling group Suraya (queen of the Kenkeni), Zen and Fin (the documentary film shooting crew) on the way to the venue I learned a little bit about Malay, Indonesian and Chinese culture and especially predominant Hindu preservation in Bali.

As we got back to the resort, there was a buzz in the air all around. Everybody was bustling with energy. I could hear laughter in the horizon to my right, some muted djembe phrases to my left and some shouts of, ‘Campei’ straight ahead. Ten points for the one who guesses which sound I followed.

I will only say this and I quote Michi from team  Australia, “I haven’t laughed as hard as I did on Saturday in a long time!” :-). Team Australia wins the ‘Best Entertainer in an Overseas Djembe Camp’ Prize.

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.


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