The Smith's Journal - November 2005

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Justine's High Wycombe drum class

Vitae Drum Circle dancing man logo by Jed Hoile [74K JPEG]Went to High Wycombe to attend Justine's Tuesday drum class at Sir William Ramsey School where Winterdrum was held. I'd been going to her Vitae Drum Circle in Wendover for some time now. It was this that got me on the path of dun duns, and twice a week just isn't enough; besides, I wanted to get in more practice before our performance later in November featuring a group of 20 djembes :-) We worked on Djole, Sanja, Limbanjitoho, Soli, Kuku and Djagbe. I also played a bit of Liberte with Jed Hoile, who was playing some fabulous shekere cross-rhythms; he's the funky dancer who accompanied Howard Jones on New Song back in the day! LOL! 1983 rocks!

"Throw off your mental chains... Woo Hoo Hoo!" :-)

This was for me the most firing drum session for ages, I was no doubt charged up and raring to go after my holiday away. The hills did it to me. So tonight at new moon I met a whole new bunch of folk head on with dun duns on stun, and probably quite startled them with the big bass baby. I've been working on the repertoire from recordings and notation I've made and am getting right into the basslines - the duns are rapidly becoming my main instrument, as I rarely get to play djembe these days. I also discovered a new Taiko-esque way to play two dun duns *fast*. I must start working out more! :-)


Vitae Drum Circle perform at The Beacon Theatre

This was my first gig with Vitae Drum Circle, given at The Beacon Theatre in Beaconsfield as part of their BAFTA Awards Showcase. The theatre was laid out with large round tables bedecked with buffet lunches, instead of the usual tiered seating, for that Awards Ceremony vibe. Although we didn't get to arrive in a limo, I hear that next year red carpets are promised! I couldn't stop singing the funky music to This Is Your Life all evening...

Our huge band just about fitted onto the stage: 19 djembe players plus myself and Antony on dun duns, with everyone singing and a few dancing. Our big acoustic sound system cooked up a deep groove, and played two twenty-minute sets:

  1. Zigri, Yankadi+Makru, Kumpo, Sanja.
  2. Limbanjitoho, Kuku, Soli, Djole.

Crooked Sixpence perform at The Beacon Theatre

Other acts included a choir, some dance and theatre groups, and for me the stars of the show, Crooked Sixpence, a fine folk duet featuring Justine on guitar and voice with Chris on traditional flutes and percussion. They did some stunning acapella songs with heart-stopping harmonies; I sat transfixed, photographing and recording them.

After the concert, our entire group of drummers had been invited to play at a party nearby (!). I was expecting a large house in its own grounds, so when we arrived at a semi-detached house in a suburban street, I wondered how we'd all fit in and not get the police called. About ten of us turned up with drums, and were ushered through a packed house into the dining room to be away from the neighbours. Once we started playing the room filled up with people dancing, not just young folk, but some ladies who you'd never expect were gyrating, convulsing and freaking out like a Pink Floyd gig c.1967! As well as thunderous drumming and Antony's dextrous hihats, Chris from Crooked Sixpence joined in playing Borders pipes (a mellower version of bagpipes) which lifted the energy through the roof. I spotted a piano in the corner, so moved onto that to give him some harmonic backup, with a groovy samba bassline and some skanking reggae chords. In all we played for another three hours before disappearing into the freezing night, thoroughly jammed out :-)


Aidan Andrew Dun at The Gymnasium

Ian and I had been invited to attend the launch of Aidan's new collection of poetry, The Uninhabitable City , which was held at The Gymnasium in London's Kings Cross. On arriving, it was clear that this place could indeed be the 'hospital where people can give birth to themselves' referred to in one of Aidan's songs; situated directly in between Kings Cross and the new St. Pancras rail terminals, this large old building given a new life as an arts venue would tonight to be blessed with some of the most energising lyric poetry on the planet. The location was particularly apt since this was the spiritual heart of Aidan's epic tome Vale Royal, the 'Intelligent Playground', 'the site of our hope'.

We were ushered through the spacious loft into a long conference room positively glittering with literati, all eager to hear the new word of the bard. A new book from Aidan is a momentous occasion in the world of words. A bell chiming signalled to move into the performance space, lit by psychedelic projections behind lighting scaffold towers. Aidan then appeared and picked up his trusty acoustic guitar, joined by Sirish Kumar playing not just two but five tabla as well as ghatam. Aidan's guitar was morphed by guitar-synth chords filling out the sound in the introduction, augmented by reverse delays and echoes. He welcomed everybody and thanked the event's sponsors, London and Continental Railways Limited - there's no stopping the man now he has a train company behind him! He gave a spirited rendition (from memory, as usual) of the beginning of Vale Royal, and then launched into some new works. Particular favourites were the hilarious 'Restaurant Pianist', and 'Vagabond Soul', a supercool rap that trickled effortlessly from his tongue over a funky drum groove.

Aidan also thanked an enterprising friend of his, with whom he had discussed their future dreams to regenerate Kings Cross. They talked of "making London an add-on to Kings Cross", with a thousand floatation tanks, transparent aerial swimming pools and white bicycles which you can borrow at one place and ride to another. Such visionary talk brought cheers of joy from those gathered. On leaving, everyone who attended this special night was given one of only 125 signed hardback copies of the book - a further 225 hardbacks and 650 paperbacks have been produced - mine is number 5 :-)

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 2005-11-03 - last updated 2006-05-12