Day 0 – Travel to Tulum + TTM International Certificate Exam
My journey was long but comfortable. I flew from Mumbai to Amsterdam to Atlanta and then Cancun, all the way with Delta Airlines and was very happy with the service and overall experience. Considering that I was going to give an exam in one of the worlds top vacation destinations, contributed to this being the most ‘awake’ I’ve been through any flight. One of the most important reasons for becoming a certified djembe player was that I wanted to take the djembe lessons that I take back in India to the next level.
The anonymity and grandeur of a long journey helped me focus and get into the state of mind needed to think of nothing but the rhythm, the exam and my performance.
I kept revising the rhythms as often as I could to get into the zone of the exam. I wonder whether I will remember things when Mamady asks me the rhythms. The last time I took an exam that required me to remember so much was in my 12th grade (a LONG time ago). I realized how important it is to be constantly learning. This makes recall much simpler. Apart from this, I went in and out of sleepy zones but never zoning-out of what I am here to do. The purpose of this exam is not only to be India’s first TTM certified djembe professor and take the djembe lessons to a distinct level but it is to commemorate the initial phases of a process well begun and to gather motivation to continue going deeper into the rabbits hole, exploring the traditional West African percussion- the djembe and hence going to the core of one’s own self, one’s chi.
I broke journey in Cancun (stayed at the Comfort Inn for a night) to wait for Kelvin Kew, Vice President TTM International and Lao K, the other examinee from China to arrive after which we would make our 2 hour journey by road to our final destination for the coming week- Tulum. It was wonderful to see a familiar face after a long and arduous travel. I made the most of the situation and started picking Kelvin’s brain with doubts and questions I had about the solos and rhythms. Being the kind-hearted and brilliant person he is, he obliged and made a big difference to my learning by correcting minor errors and giving me handy djembe lessons.
Tulum is a beautiful beach city/town. It reminded me of the south of Goa. A road divides this beach into two parts. The people are amazingly kind hearted, soft spoken and warm. I was told that my ‘El Moustachio’ look could partly be reason for this.
As usual, it was a pleasure to meet Mamady and Yuyi as they joined us for dinner in the restaurant of Rosa Del Viento, our immensely picturesque resort and workshop-venue in Tulum. Even though we meet only once a year, Mamady and I, we are connected deeply. I can only imagine what it is like to make these connections from his point of view, sans frontiers with students from all over the world. From all the welcome talk and reconnecting what stood out to me was Mamady saying, “Be calm and you’ll be ok!”… And I’d discover, so it was to be…
After my first delicious baked salmon meal I slept, only after going over all the 12 solos that I would present the next day.
The next morning, I was up well before my alarm clock. I checked and the nerves were doing alright. Of course I was stressed but I wasn’t going to let it get the better of me. After a Mexican breakfast of tortillas I went to the examination area to prepare myself mentally. Kelvin, Jeremy and Yuyi would support me on the dunun and Mamady would be watching closely. I had to present 12 rhythms with the original solos and then had to present five rhythms that Mamady would choose. I chose and got the tough ones out of the way by interspersing them with the easier ones which would mean a break for the hands and the mind. I’d like to make a special mention to Quinn Reesor and Tara Tucker (TTM Certified teachers from Utah and Cairns respectively) for giving me djembe lessons on these solos and mentoring me in the djembe. This would not have been possible without you.
After the 3 odd hours of testing the words “Falicitation!!”, from Mamady’s mouth helped me breathe a huge sigh of relief that justified and reinstated the energy that was being channelized to this by me and the beautiful support system around me in India.
It is only now sinking in that I will be drumming in one of the most beautiful beach destinations in the world with the most genuine drumming community in the world.
I can’t seem to put it better than by saying-
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