Ile – You here
N’de – Me
Isoma – Good morning (to one person – singular)
Aisoma – Good morning (plural)
Ineura – Good evening
Inike – Thank you
Ainike – Thank you all (plural)
Iwuli – You stand up
Wuli – Stand up
Yan – Here
Na Yan – Come here
Tanate – How are you?
Tanacite – I’m fine/good/well.
‘Nininka Lilate Filica’ – ‘He who asks questions will not make mistakes.’
And so we made sure that we posed intermittent questions throughout Friday’s session.
Before one of our many Drum Classes in Mumbai started all the djembefola’s and djembefollette’s were practising their tones and slaps on their respective djembes. The gentlemen sitting to my left looked over at James Kwan (from TTM Hong Kong) who was very calmly playing his djembe in the otherwise, noisy room and asked him, “How do you play so softly and still get your tones and slaps to sound so clear?” James smiled and said in one word, “You relax.” It is not a necessity to whack the djembe hard all the time to play a tone or a slap. There is a difference in the physical playing technique for sure but beyond that it is a question of really internalizing the sound of ‘Ping’, ‘Pang’ and ‘Boom’ as one plays the djembe. Each djembe player will eventually find his or her own special way of playing it. It might differ from another players technique minutely or greatly. The most important thing is to be very clear in the mind as to which sound to get at what particular time, sit comfortably while playing (with the back straight and shoulders relaxed) and to smile and breathe while playing. That makes all the difference.
We started off by completing the previous sessions rhythm ‘Bara’. We played the second accompaniment and here’s what that sounded like with the Dunun section:
The next rhythm we played in our Djembe Lessons is called ‘Sumalo.’ This rhythm is one of Mamady’s creations and is based on a mythical story from West-Africa. The rhythm is named after a king by the name of ‘Sumalo’ and the story is one of a patriotic mother. Sumalo’s kingdom was a famous and prosperous one. And like the fate of most famous and prosperous kingdoms will have it, they were confronted by a strong enemy. This story talks about a warrior, his wife and son. During the war this gallant warrior was killed. The soldiers returned to the dead warriors home with his battle armour and his sword. These articles were presented to his wife who showed it to her son. The boy was young and not ready for battle but he wanted to avenge the death of his father and his mother saw reason in this. She took him to the war camp of Sumalo. The boy was identified as too young to fight but his heart was big. He was taken into battle and after some struggles, he too suffered the same fate as his father and died in battle. Once again the son’s material remains were brought back to the mother. The mother reacted in a way that she wanted to go to battle and avenge her husband’s and son’s death and win the war. She went and presented herself to Kind Sumalo and fell at his feet as he approached her. The king picked her up. The mother said, “I will fight.” The kind replied calmly, “I know your energy, your spirit and your philosophy. I admire it. Your thoughts are patriotic. but you do not have the strength to go and fight. Go home and pray for us so that we can go and win this battle for our Kingdom.” The mother cried all the way back to her home but she prayed for her King, the brave soldiers and for their safe return. Sumalo’s kingdom emerged victorious. The king himself went to report this news to the mother and to thank her for her prayers because of which they won the war.
This rhythm was created in 1964 and is a tribute to the bravery in women. Women would not take part in battle but had a lot of wisdom and courage and advised kings on strategy of battle.
The words of the songs are:
Sumalo Sumalo (Name of King)
Sofalu Barawuli (The warriors are ready)
Ila Kola Yan (For you here)
This is how we were taught the words of the song: Sumalo Song
This took me back to my memories of a quaint little village school close to Amby Valley called Shaktiyogashram. I had gone there to conduct a Djembe Circle for the inhabitants of the Ashram and also children from a neighbouring rural school. As I reached I caught the end of an English class where the kids were repeating ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ The teacher would speak one word and the students would repeat the word until they perfected it. This brought a smile to my face as we did the same here to get the pronunciations of the words perfectly.
Here’s what the song sounds like with the djembe and dunun parts: Sumalo Djembe and Dununs
There was a really nice buzz in the air after the Djembe Drum Lessons. I really enjoyed this song. There was a certain something about this rhythm and song that I really liked. The vocal harmony was absolutely beautiful to listen to.The men had one response part and the women had another. They fit beautifully together.
Here’s a nice photo of Mamady Keita and Tara Tucker from Drum Up Big. I hope we can see them in India sometime very soon.
Mamady Keita and Tara Tucker
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