A couple of months ago, I met a friend who returned to India from the US after 4 years. She was a college friend and a good one back then and we’ve had some fun times together. The excitement from my end was obvious; I wanted to hear the stories she had to say about living in America and also revive the memories we had together. From playing pranks to sharing notes to burning the midnight oil to scrape through the exams, there was a lot of talking and catching up to do.
As soon as I greeted her, I felt something completely different. Apart from the usual learning’s of picking up an American accent and a few other mannerisms from the West, she had changed. She just seemed arrogant to talk to and referring us (Indians) to ‘you guys’. The excitement slowly drained and as time passed by, I wanted to leave and get on with my life as usual.
Fast forward to last week and we were shown a documentary titled ‘Djembefola’ which was a documentary based on the life of Mamady Keita, the master djembe drummer who returned to his homeland after 26 years. At first, I was amazed by the fact that he had such exquisite skill, the energy of a teenager and had traveled the world doing what he loved. But as we were asked to write a report about this film, there was one characteristic of Mamady Keita that not only stood out to me, but it also developed a deep sense of respect for him.
Returning to your homeland after 26 years first of all takes guts, even more so if you are a world renowned master drummer. Because in 26 years, it’s not just about change, it’s about relearning the entire place with a completely different and younger generation. Moreover, people leave their places of birth for better opportunities and a better life and on returning you are unsure of how you would adjust and adapt to the surroundings you once lived in. You’re unsure if you remember people and vice versa, the places which were, now are rebuilt, reconstructed and refurnished.
On his return though, he was greeted warmly and responded with so much energy yet so much affection. He missed his people. He traveled the world over but on setting foot on his home soil, it showed how much he missed the place. He could have shown a sense of arrogance and pride in being a ‘world famous’ master drummer and teaching African Drumming Lessons around the globe but he didn’t. He kept his feet firmly on the ground. He was happy and excited to see his friends and family as were they. He decided to visit the village of his birth and on reaching there he couldn’t control his emotions. A multitude of emotions translated into tears from both ends only goes to show that Mamady Keita is a man who isn’t forgotten who he is, where he’s from and what actually matters.
It is this characteristic that stood out me the most. As stated earlier, in 4 years my friend had changed. Anybody would and it’s only natural for it to happen. But what’s most important is that no matter where you go and what you do, you should never forget your roots and be true to yourself. This movie showcased these traits about him more than his skill and the fact that he is a world famous artist. Born with humble beginnings in an African country and traveling the world teaching the thing he loved doing; drumming his heart out and creating many African Drumming Groups. As he stated in the movie, he was born to drum and the oracle had predicted a bright future for him. But even pure talent cannot win medals on its own. He gained recognition and fame due to the hard work and dedication he put in. He has started various drumming schools and has taken innumerable African Drumming Workshops in Europe and in one clip I could see the passion he has teaching his students in drum workshops. It only goes to show that he still has that fire burning inside him.
The documentary may have shown about the life of Mamady Keita but it is these characteristics of him I hope I could model my life upon as well.
Varun is the founder and director of Taal Inc.
The visionary behind the motto
Come. Drum. Be One.
To read more about him Click Here