The Smith's Journal - June 2008

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Secret Bass perform at Hertford Castle Fun Day

Tags: Drumming

As part of Hertford's annual Fun Day, Secret Bass once again stormed the castle. And since drumming is fun, I also gave four half-hour drum workshops beforehand from noon until 2pm, although hardly anyone turned up to partake. Sadly I'd got a bad cold the day before and so was suffering rather than enjoying the Fun. We played the gig pretty well without incident, with those Agents present giving their best, although I blundered into some songs too fast or too slow. We were honoured to have a guest appearance by Jane Rainbow on shekere :-) Also we had the usual trouble of not being mic'ed up and the sound disappearing outdoors. I felt like I'd been dragged from my sick bed and propped up in front of the audience (cf. the Pink Floyd film "The Wall" ;-) But I tried to go beyond the limitations of my physical state and involve the crowd, getting them singing and going up to kids and firing djembe at them. Unfortunately I wasn't able to play my solo that I'd been practising religiously until I got ill :-(


Beat Camp #2

Tags: Drumming

The Second Beat Camp took place once again in sunny Bedfordshire on Sunday June 8th, and was a very jolly affair. This happened to be an absolutely fabulous day of scorching sunshine, bringing us ever closer to the African vibe.

This year's participants were: (in order of appearance) Edwin, Barry, Kay, Sara, Lesley + Steve, Ness, Jo, Steve, Rozi, Justine, Ruth + George. In three two-hour sessions through the day, we played three new rhythms that master musician Mamady Keita has composed to extend the wonderful Guinean tradition of Malinke music, with his concept of "The Evolution of The Djembe". First up in the morning was Koudani, complete with extensive solo djembe part. The midday heat was already cooking us slowly, so we took a lovely lunch of fresh fruits and salads sat on blankets relaxing in the shade of the big tree, before embarking on the next song: Bele Bele, with its thunderous dununba part, bewildering bells and crazy djembe introduction. Afterwards I gave the premiere of our Secret Bass demo CD, which we'd recently recorded. Later on, a few folk drifted off, their heads full of the invisible buzzing of the insects singing on all sides simultaneously. Those sunstruck souls that remained went on for a brief run through Kuku (including part 5), before we learned the new rhythm of Keiko.

After six hours of drumming, we ate a lovely dinner I'd cooked in advance and then most people departed. Edwin and Barry stayed a while longer to investigate the delights of my many singing bowls, and check out some sounds in the studio.

What a glorious day - everyone got sunburned! To thank Nature for the wonderful weather after weeks of dismal cloud and rain, I stayed out until sunset with the lawnmower.

[Pictures to follow...]


African Drumming at the UH Staff Garden Party

Tags: Drumming

The UH staff society drumming group I teach were invited to give a drumming showcase at my old University of Hertfordshire for their Staff Garden Party, held outdoors right here on the new campus. After the staff choir and a speech by the University's Vice Chancellor, Professor Tim Wilson, we began by playing Djole and Yankadi+Makru. I'd spotted a girl hula hoop dancing (complete with flower necklace, grass skirt and coconuts!) so asked her to join our performance, to which she happily obliged. We were also honoured to welcome the Vice Chancellor to accompany us on kenkeni. Not anticipating his musical ability, I just gave him a simple part which he nevertheless played with gusto, pouring yet more fire onto the flames that were the crazed abandon of Moribayassa.

After all this merriment died down, I taught a beginners' djembe workshop for a new group of staff eager for a piece of the action.

Funk Logic Palindrometer

Tags: Studio

I'd had a Palindrometer on order from Funk Logic's UK distributor for nearly two years of waiting in vain, but spotted one on eBay, so I got it sent directly from the United States. Before you mod me down for an excessive carbon footprint, choking on your Brazilian mange tout, I must tell you that this is a unique and specialist bit of kit: there really is nothing else quite like it.

[ CLM DB8000s and Funk Logic Palindrometer closeup ][ Sony SRP-L200, CLM DB8000s, Funk Logic Palindrometer |It arrived before I could say "PULL UP" - oh WOW!!! :-) This beautiful work of art is clearly produced by a higher intelligence; these 2010 photos (to be replaced soon) don't do it justice. I swiftly installed this amazing machine in the place reserved for it in my rack, a prominent central location reachable from the mix-position, so as to be always close at hand should the vibe require it. It adds a vital touch of grace when a project is in need of a little extra je ne sais quoi...

On powering it up I am totally beside myself! Firstly I must describe the tone colour it imparts: darker than my CLM preamps, although more vibrant than my MicroWave, and much richer than any Lexicon. The closest comparison would be Tube-Tech. The minimal but chunky aesthetic is catching: now I want all my outboard gear to be huge with big dials! Imagine a modern modular synth or DAW control surface with proper-sized mil-spec knobs and illuminated switches...

Engaging the reassuringly massive LINE NIL switch from MID Q to DIM has to be heard to be believed. The only omission on this otherwise highly creative instrument is a SATAN, OSCILLATE MY METALLIC SONATAS option, but that would undoubtedly have led to increased cost.

The Palindrometer will be utilised extensively to record an oud duo for my next album project Tunnel Visions.

For the rest of the evening, I sat back with a famous John Cage recording on repeat (back and forth) and bathed in the glorious sound...


Summer Solstice

Tags: Music, Eco

The Naked Truth had been invited to perform at a private festival to celebrate the Summer Solstice, but it was cancelled.

Another event that I missed today was master bowler Frank Perry performing at The White Eagle Lodge in Kensington, to mark his 60th birthday.

For this significant event Frank will play upon his 'large kit' of around 600 instruments including those invented by himself (and utterly unique in the world) also his large collection of gongs (he will have most of his 45 gongs) in the superb acoustic of the London Lodge.

Unfortunately I couldn't go to this as I had to work instead, teaching African drumming to Scouts in intense tents, which was of course fun.

Vitae Drummers perform atop Coombe Hill

Tags: Drumming

[ See pictures from last time ] Vitae Drummers once again celebrated the Summer Solstice up Coombe Hill near Wendover.

We arrived under a leaden sky. Unpacking the car it suddenly began to rain, which is a showstopper for African drums :-( However, we hung around and it soon stopped again, so we bravely marched out with our drums to the summit of this high hill with stunning views over six counties. I had come up with a cunning plan to protect my dun dun from any more rain: using the large heavy-duty transparent plastic Royal Mail bag that the Palindrometer had been delivered in as a large 'condom' enclosed the drum safely, providing a waterproof shield through which I could still play it and people could still see what it was. Great!

We got up there and found a small crowd gathered as usual, with flutes, singing bowls and other drums. We played a thumping set to the vast horizon, and even lured the sun from behind the clouds briefly before rain resumed and sent us off to the pub.

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 2008-01-01 - last updated 2017-11-14 - links verified 2017-11-14