The walk from the Aussie house to Kava is much shorter and so, I woke up at the usual time (7:00 am) and had time for some Suryanamaskar (Sun – Salutation) and some breakfast (Peanut butter and jelly sandwich and muesli) before I went to Kava for our last class of African Drumming Lessons with Mamady. I must admit that I was feeling rather sad about that. I was happy to drum of course, but there was a heavy feeling in my stomach.
I think Mamady probably expected this feeling in the air in class and so we played a rhythm called ‘Kedju’. This rhythm is one of Mamady’s creations and is a joke between young people (boys and girls) The word ‘Kedju’ means ‘ugly’. It doesn’t mean ‘ugly’ in a mean, hurtful manner but in a way of lightly and lovingly teasing somebody. One night in Balandugu, Mamady heard some children sing this song. The rhythm just came to him thereafter. The Dunun pattern in this rhythm is a very interactive one. The patterns came (and usually come) to him as a melody. Mamady broke down this melody as individual Dununba, Sangban and Kenkeni parts. The djembe accompaniments have been taken from traditional rhythms. This is a rhythm full of a very childlike, fun, free and joyous energy. The girls gather around on one side and the boys on another and sing this song to each other with their facial expressions and body/hand gestures following in animated vigour. They sing to each other, “The friendship of an ugly boy/girl; that doesn’t please me!”
The words to the song are:
Kedju La Kanin (An ugly friendship)
Sunguru (ugly girl) / Kamberin (ugly boy)
Kedju La Kanin Mandinye (It doesn’t please me)
Here’s what this cute song sounds like: Kedju Song
The song was led by Monette who walked in around an hour or two into our class (after our initial break) and brought along with her a breath of fresh air: her daughter Nasira. Here’s a cute picture of the family:
The first half of our African Drumming Lessons was not easy to get through. We performed the long break in the introduction (created by Mamady) and this took us a while to get correctly. I knew this break previously as we had played it during the Mini-Guinea workshop in Singapore for the Pyramid Performance yet, it was a much needed revision for me. I can feel the difference in how I feel while playing the djembe now in comparison to last year. I believe that I am able to play with more awareness and control. My precision with the tone and slap has also improved over the last ten days. After sorting out some hairy portions in the break, we finally got the phrase decently with Mamady playing along with us. but since ‘Trust should not exclude testing’, we played it many a time without Mamady and finally started playing with rhythm, feeling, technique and precision; the four components of a good Djembefola/folette.
““The djembe is an energetic and natural instrument,” said Mamady as he emphasized the primal nature of the djembe. The spirit of the Djembe is similar to the spirit of Nature; inclusive, communicative, giving, unconditional and omnipresent. And that is a message I always try to convey in every African Drum Circle I facilitate. I remembered Mamady talking about communications taking place on various levels when one plays the djembe during the Singapore workshop as well. Firstly, he said that while playing the djembe, one makes a connection with the djembe. Therefore one doesn’t need to look at the instrument while playing since the spirit of the player and the djembe are already one. Secondly, one communicates with the dunun section behind the djembe. This is the foundation, the basis on which the djembe speaks and colours rhythmically. Next, one communicates with the rest of the band/ensemble while playing the djembe. And that’s exactly what happens in an African Drum Circle as well where everyone doesn’t just connect with the Drum Circle Instruments but also with everything and everyone around. And lastly, (and most importantly) one communicates with the audience one is playing for. The djembefolas (and any performer for that matter) open their hearts while performing. They feed off of the energy of the audience and if not, in Mamady’s words, “It doesn’t work.”
This is what the break and the rhythm ‘Kedju’ sounds like: Kedju Break
After our class finished Mamady spoke and really reached out to all our hearts. He said that it was the end of this workshop with him but not the end of the world. We would all take back what we have learned in these ten days and if we put it to good use and spread it in the spirit it was taught to us I believe we would be respecting both Mamady and Famoudou.
“Whenever you touch your Djembe, even if it’s for two seconds, know that my heart and Famoudou’s heart are with you. You are not like the white people (or foreigners – to be fair, sensitive to and inclusive of the multi-coloured turn out of this Mini Guinea workshop) who came to Africa centuries ago, because you really know our culture. You understand and are genuinely interested in it and will share it in it’s truest spirit. We love you very much. Thank you for your energy because it was because of that that we could open ourselves to you.” I felt my eyes well-up as I heard these words; words of a master of the highest calibre, speaking humbly from his heart to mine (to ours); words that felt like a band-aid over a wound, to ease and heal the scar of a very deep, surgical learning process. It felt like, love.
Moving slowly but with smiles on our faces, we decided to go to the beach: the only part of San Diego I was yet to see. The group was Keli (San Diego Best Host contender # 1), Kim (also San Diego Best Host contender # 1), Devra (a.k.a MJ), Tannis, Jamie (from Canada), Kun (from China) and Sue. There is a certain something about the beaches of San Diego that surpassed my impression which was hitherto, purely based out of watching ‘Baywatch’. There were Pelicans and seagulls everywhere. It was nice to see the skill of surfers up front and live. We played some football, lazed around and eventually headed to Sunset Cliffs experience the legendary West-Coast Sunset. I think that it was here that I felt a positive sense of inspiration and completion. Not that this was my last day. I have one more day with Famoudou but nonetheless. Over the past two weeks, I have met people from all over the world who have been bitten by the Percussionitis bug, united by the djembe. I’ve been witness to hospitality, culture, new friendships and new connections all thanks to this instrument. It was one of those moments when I felt connected to the universal source of energy. Thank you Tam Tam Mandingue for making this possible.
And in continuation and scaling-up of my Cartwheel tour of Europe, I thought I’d include America in this as well. What can I say, I felt inspired…