Day 7 & 8 – 1/1/13 & 2/1/13 Bon Anne + Performance

This morning, many skipped breakfast; many wore sun glasses to cover their groggy eyes; many reached the morning class just in the nick of time.

We finished two out of what I know to be a four rhythm pyramid. But since we don’t have enough time to finish all 4, Mamady added two more rhythms with breaks that would be easier to grasp for the Rhythm Ensemble.We did Tiriba and Denadon. Tiriba is a rhythm of the Landuma people from West Guinea. The rhythm has many stories; it is the story of a dancer who would be called Tiriba once he put on his dancing attire. Tiriba would travel from village to village to dance with his troupe. He would be given gifts after his performance and continue his journey. The second story is that it was a women’s initiation rhythm. And finally, it is one of the popular Drum Circle Rhythms played at festivals. Denadon is a Malinke rhythm from North East Guinea that is payed as the Mendiani is welcomed into a village. The Mendiani are a group of women who have been so to say, ‘initiated’ into knowing the secrets of being a women, the secrets of nature and culture. Finally, we played one more rhythm, Kawa, with Ben a traditional West-African flute player from Spain. This added the perfect amount of melody and balanced an otherwise only percussive set.

Ben from Spain playing the flute over the rhythm ‘Kawa’ and Mamady

The soloists were chosen from amongst the students. I was to solo on Kuruni, coincidently the same rhythm I had a solo in, in Bali. I could sense the excitement and the tension in the air around me. Piece by piece, it was all coming together.

That evening I helped Mandy and Rhona with some of the hairy parts since they had missed some of the parts as they were being explained. I was happy to help in any way I could.

Needless to say this day was a heavy and slow one. Everyone needed all the rest they could get after the previous nights celebration. Even our plans to go watch Salimatu, the dance teacher perform were foiled due to unrealistic alarms and ambition. I slept in and decided to conserve my energy for the next day.

I started it with a jog on the beach with Natalie. There’s nothing more beautiful than a morning jog on the beach to set the right pace and energy for a performance that night; especially when that day would be the first time I would perform in Africa before the people who this kind of drumming originally belongs to.

I started tightening my drum to prepare it for the evening’s performance. One can never REALLY say how many knots are too many until the worst happens. I think I will be able to say next time since this time I did tighten it too much and the skin did pop. Considering that it isn’t the first time this is happening to me I was quite frustrated. However, Coral, one of the organizers of this workshop was kind enough to offer me her drum for the performance. I’m blessed to have such wonderful people around me. With that drum we went through the entire performance amongst ourselves once before the final dress rehearsal that evening. I stepped in and gave the calls for the breaks and ends; felt good to be able to do this.

After my djembe-skin-popping incident, there was another unfortunate victim- Bruno, the sweet and talented Italian djembefola. Thereafter, everyone was tentative as they tightened their drums with the hope not to pop it. This was as good a place to re-skin my drum as any so I was at ease once again as I gave my drum to Malo to repair (bless him).

Since I didn’t have anything to wear I decided to get into town and buy myself some traditional Senegalese attire. Tannis accompanied me for this. As luck would have it I would have to shop at the very place that I avoided on the first day. This shop was run by a man called Pap (like the Pope, like he would say himself) and his nephew big Lamen (a common name here for the first born son of a family). He had some interesting Kurtas and pajamas as we would call them. I got two sets one for me and one for one lucky person in the Taal Inc. Rhythm Ensemble. I think I got a good bargain… (some perks of being Indian).

My first traditional (slightly touristy) Senegalese attire

We got back in time to run through the pyramid with our straps so that we could stand up and play. This was the time to go over all the breaks in the formation we would play at the stage. Exciting stuff. Once again Mamady knew just the right way to motivate us and inspire us to play a strong and tight set sticking to our strengths. Quite obviously none of us could play a solo that the audience wouldn’t have heard before (except for Mamady, Iya and Seckou of course) but what we could convey to them is that not only Africans can play the djembe and that if we immersed ourselves fully into the pyramid we could deliver a tight and powerful set leaving the audience in disbelief of our efforts over a very short period of time.

The start of my solo during the ‘final stand-up rehearsal’ just before the performance at the festival
Taking blessings from the master Mamady Keita before the solo in ‘Kuruni’

After our rehearsal, it was time to absorb every moment of the calm before the storm. People prepared themselves in their own way; some by listening to the pyramid over and over again, some by taking it in silently and some by socializing. We were all ready. We had an early dinner and made our way to the Abene festivalo 2012-13, this time as artists; a special feeling.

We were meant to start the festival by 9:20pm after all the announcements but I am now starting to understand African time and so we went on at about 10-10:30pm. Mamady started by talking to the crowd of excited and curious Africans and foreigners. After the usual formalities of thank-you’s he went on to ask the youth to not forget their culture because they are the future flag bearers of African culture. He emphasized the importance of coming together and being united. His effort  that evening was a way of saying that anybody, regardless of their heritage, age, sex, colour and background can play the djembe. Everything after the first count-off of the performance was a blur. We started off with three chants of, ‘Wassa Wassa’ and the rest was history. Some of the highlights were, Seckou’s energy, Iya’s style, Mamady’s conducting antics, the  energy of the group on the whole and how each person poured their heart out solo or no solo.


Sneak Peak of the performance at Abene Festivalo 2012-13

A consolidated (well-edited) video will be put up soon so this one is only  a snippet of our 50 minute performance.

My solo, in Kuruni, Pyramid of Rhythms – Mamady Keita

This performance was something that would remain in the hearts of the people of Abene for the rest of their lives; not because it was the best djembe group they saw performing, but it was one which had a strong message wait it, it was the first time they saw the djembe bring people from all across the globe together tying to understand and spread their culture at a deep and authentic level.

After watching the next performance, we returned home, excited, fingers sore, hearts full of energy, tired yet energized to find Mamady already sitting around the fire. He asked me if I was content and I nodded saying that I was very happy and thanked him for the opportunity to share stage win him yet again. The rest of the evening was spent talking about the performance so the each one of us could have a smooth landing as the adrenalin effect subsided and we looked forward to what lay ahead of us.

I slept like a rock that night.

Come. Drum. Be One.

Taal Inc.