I flew for, what felt like, a day and a half and reached San Diego. En route, things were simple, easy and relaxed thanks to some impeccable planning and help from my Woman and Man Fridays – Solonie Singh Pathania and Dhir Mody. Apart from the fact that I unconsciously fell onto the unassuming lady to my right on the plane twice as I was  sleeping, nothing else went terribly wrong. Special mention to Mrs. Swathy Arjun who made (and is making) sure that my landing into the Amreeka Land was (and continues to be) smooth. I shall be thanking her and her daughter, Arpana Arjun several times throughout this series  of blogs.After getting over my jet lag, my first home-cooked Indian meal in The Amreeka Land, and my first Burrito from Taco Bell I thought that it was the right time to announce Vamoudou’s arrival to San Diego! (Agneya Chikte, I swear if that rap gets any longer… I will make you perform it  in public while you wear pink!)After soaking in San Diegan suburbia fully, I decided that it was time to hit Downtown.Monette Marino-Keita (Mamady Keita’s wife) was playing at The Anthology, San Diego last night. There were a bunch of special guests who were going to jam on stage with her and the band, Mamady Keita and Famoudou Konate being the ones I was most keenly awaiting. The evening promised to be a memorable one… I met ace djembefolette, friend (also the first Aussie to be certified by TTM) and djembe teacher, Tara Tucker from Drum Up Big Australia before the concert. The Anthology seems like a top notch live music destination for band and music buff alike: highest end sound, lights, location, artist roster, food, drinks and ambiance! From the first note, Monette and the band took us on a wonderful percussive journey. There was salsa, samba, West-African music and just about everything in between. Here are some videos of Monette Marino-Keita performing:

Monette Marino Keita – Larger Than Life Nov.14

Monette Marino Keita Anthology Show Clip 1

Monette Marino Keita Anthology Show Clip 2

Monette Marino Keita Anthology Show Clip 3

Her website

Monette comes from a very musical family and we got to witness almost everybody in the family live!

Now, it is safe to say that music is played to spread joy. Everyone on stage and off was radiant with this energy. There was a warm positive, happy, celebratory blanket around each and every person there. That, to me is a successful performance. It was a matter of a few minutes before people started moving to the music. It was an absolute treat to watch Mamady and Famouodou play the congas with so much ease, finesse and style. As they played they looked like two happy children on stage. Famoudou had a beautiful, blissful expression on his face throughout as he played the rhythm holding it down and let Mamady fly over it. I think that’s what true mastery is – humility, effortlessness and egolessness. And one day, after all the years of hard work, music gifts you something – agelessness! I consider myself lucky to have been witness to this. Thanks to all out there who made it possible.

My hands are itching to start on Sunday evening…

The evening continued with good American wine and Cheez-its! Sometime in the remainder of the evening it dawned upon me; that I am on the path. Visions of when I had played my first drum, my first drum kit, facilitated my first drum circle, my first gig, my first actual drum lesson, the first time I met Mamady in Singapore, considering San Diego as a distant possibility, more drum circles and finally – San Diego, passed through my mind’s eye; the journey has sure been an interesting one and at every step it gets more and more adventurous and growthful. I extend a warm ‘thank you’ to all those of you who have been a part of this journey of mine, a part of my clarity, passion and rhythm. I do believe that there is a lot that lies ahead of me and I am happy and inspired to take it on.

Today, with some much needed help from Mrs. Swathy Arjun, I found a wonderful little place to stay (719 Ash St., San Diego, CA,) nice and close to the venue of the workshop (Kava Gallery 2804 Kettner Boulevard, San Diego, CA). We walked around the Downtown area and soaked in the atmosphere there. Good food everywhere, blues bars, the beach – couldn’t ask for more, could I? *Happy sigh*. I am also especially looking forward to my All-American diner experience. So yes, I do believe that the next 15 days will hold a lot of surprises and a lot of things worth writing about.

So, with that, I welcome you all to Taal Inc. I invite you all to share this rhythm, this part of my life with me. This part I call ‘The journey with the Djembe’.

Come. Drum. Be One.

Varun Venkit

Taal Inc.