The Smith's Journal - February 2005

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Before We Were Born

Staying at Mama's house in Nottingham. Ruth emailed me a remarkable article: Before We Were Born. Went into town with Mama to see Nottingham Caves and then my annual pilgrimage to buy some records from Selectadisc:


Countryfile filming

Countryfile filming with Ruth at The Warren in Epping Forest was great fun: famous for fifteen minutes!

>>> Watch this edited clip of my interview [big 149MB download!]

I was asked by the BBC to take part in their TV series Countryfile, who were doing a programme about Epping Forest. Apparently they found me via the BBC Training films I'd done at Michael's Folly in Epping Green in Hertfordshire, without realising that it is a different place from the Epping Green in Essex near to Epping Forest. The programme was to focus on different things people do in the woods, such as horseriding, walking, etc., and they thought that having me wandering about with DAT recorder and percussion, playing music and sampling tree spirits would make good TV :-) Even better would be a few of us scattered about playing distant sounds reverberating around the ancient woodlands, maybe a drum circle, or Ruth and I singing songs... Never one to turn down an opportunity to make a fool of myself before the nation, I explained that although not quite a native of that forest, we would happily take part.

Thanks go to Lieutenant Uhura (anagram: "Auntie Ruth E. Luna" :-) who Valiantly Stepped up to the Cause, to Boldly Go into the forest... Fabrizia and Patrick also volunteered a few days later, but by this time the mission had already been planned for a small Away Team.

The filming was the usual BBC hilarity - driving along behind the camera crew's Land Rovers up muddy tracks into Epping Forest (the Corporation of London had given us the keys to open up the gates). It took three hours of filming to make about six minutes of television. They interviewed me, and Ruth and I played some djembe and guitar, and I talked a bit about my mbira, shakers, forest acoustics, vibes, etc. Although we saw John Craven there, we didn't get much chance to speak to him, let alone play him the old African theme music to Newsround... ;-)

TV Cream theme tunes

In my extensive web searching for John Craven's Newsround theme tunes, I stumbled into this wonderful place. [WARNING - Don't try this at work with sound turned up! I spent an entire afternoon there engaging in time travel of the most hilarious kind ;-] e.g.:

[NOTE: The TV Cream website has sadly stopped hosting these files :-( If you're really keen, you can probably find them archived, e.g., Going up! ;-]

Sadly the funky original Newsround theme with African clave rhythms (that I was so keen to find and play to him while on location ;-) is in RealAudio format which I cannot use :-(likewise the joyously jazzy John Dankworth 1972 Tomorrow's World theme.)

Dig those shirts!

[UPDATE: Hang on a minute - I really wasn't trying there; you need these too:

And finally, my favourite of all:

Guaranteed to brighten up any slow day at the office! :-)


On TV!

After a massive email session yesterday telling Everyone Who Knows Me that I'm on TV, the day finally arrives: Ruth and I appearing on BBC1's Countryfile programme about Epping Forest. We watched it at Ruth's house, with the kids (aged 6 and 7) asking:
"Are you on soon?", and then not believing it afterwards:
"You're FAMOUS! You were on telly!"

During the programme, there was a break in transmission during the weather forecast bit just before we were due to be on! I really laughed at that, as I'd warned people on my website: "Do not adjust your sets. Normal service will be resumed shortly." Hehe, I thought they'd suddenly had to censor me! But it came back in plenty of time, and I got introduced by John Craven as 'a character of the forest' ;-)

>>> Watch this edited clip of my interview [big 149MB download!]

I couldn't stop smiling all day! I do wish I'd had the chance to see it *before* the rest of the UK, but c'est la vie :-) Rest assured, I would be cringing at whatever I'd said...! I was concerned about my sentence structure, since I have a habit of not quite finishing a sentence, but adding more and more vague comments that peter out into... well,... not really quite hitting the nail on the head to fully describe the point I'm making, but..., kind of... Luckily the Beeb are good at editing :-)

Of course, now the offers are already flooding in: Hollywood, Cannes, etc. "Speak to my agent, Darling..." But I did get a few fun phonecalls afterwards from folk I knew who'd seen it, some not realising I was going to be on, and then just seeing me there and choking on their coffee. Another email came from a total stranger who was overjoyed to see someone doing just what he loves - playing drums in the woods - who said that while he was watching it, six of his friends had texted him to say that his double was on TV. He invited us to join his posse drumming at the Nine Ladies stone circle on Stanton Moor, Derbyshire, on Easter Sunday ;-)



Fabulous rehearsal with Ruth (sponsored by my employer ;-) including two new songs: Storm and Peace. These call for some creative instrumentation... Hmmm, I must get some cymbals, a tam-tam even...? [UPDATE: Oh yes ;-]

[UPDATE 2: The first of these songs literally brought the house down at its premiere :-]



Attended the Winterdrum day of Drum, Dance & Song in Hazlemere near High Wycombe which featured workshops and evening performances by many talented teachers and master musicians. In the morning session I joined Baba Kone's Intermediate/Advanced Djembe class, which was wild. It was nice to be in a room of skilled players where I was the beginner! :-) In the afternoon, I took Seckou Keita's class, three more hours of 20+ djembes and multiple dun dun basslines. I'd forgotten quite how essential dun duns are as the bass for a djembe ensemble. As a result I decided that we must have some for our own group. Alas, I was not in great physical health, making the mistake of not eating anything, and the two workshops sent me into a low blood-sugar-level trough of melted brain, so I had to slope off and missed the evening concert. I loved Baba's morning class, but for some reason couldn't get on with Seckou's teaching in the afternoon (despite his incredible skill as a player). On the other hand, my friend Jane who also attended their classes (but the other way around) really liked Seckou in the morning, but not Baba in the afternoon! Something in the lunch? ;-) Most likely we're just not up to the pace! Our sessions are much more mellow, perhaps too pedestrian, so I am trying to make amends... ;-) FIRE!

[UPDATE: I subsequently joined the Vitae Drum Circle led by Justine Hart who organised Winterdrum, and we saw Baba again at Rhythm and Grooves.]

[UPDATE: Winterdrum is back in 2007! See and I'll see you there, also in 2008 :-]

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2005-05-09 - last updated 2007-09-28 - links verified 2005-06-04