The Smith's Journal - September 2008

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Vitae Drummers perform at African Linx Festival

Tags: Music, Drumming

African Linx Festival is a small and nicely intimate event organised by African music lovers to raise money for The Kartong Festival in Gambia. I went last year and we also performed at a smaller-scale event in January 2007. It's held near to the village of Cropredy near Banbury (north of Oxford), and ran all weekend, but dismal weather almost threatened the event when the main field was waterlogged. It was moved to a smaller adjacent field and scaled down somewhat.

Sadly Saturday's torrential rain kept many people away, but luckily it didn't rain on the Sunday when I went; the sun even came out a few times from behind the leaden sky. Just seeing Justine and Chris' wonderful performance as Crooked Sixpence was reason enough to be there. Later on after some rousing sabar drumming from Sankofa I performed with Vitae Drummers, who received a warm response from the crowds demanding an encore. We've already been booked for next year! It was nice to be thanked afterwards by some of the Africans, who were pleased to see us playing the traditional music properly.

Afterwards the Rachel Gittus Band gave a powerful performance with an interesting lineup of guitar, bass, drums, clarinet, trumpet and guest trombonist Rory McLeod. The best thing for me about this band was that they all sang, at least everyone not already blowing something, which is how it should be. It's amazing how powerful three voices in unison/harmonies can be. Their drummer was playing an interesting hybrid drumkit consisting of kick drum, hihat, crash and ride cymbals, together with three Remo Tubanos replacing snare drum and toms; sometimes he played them conga-like with his hands (and cymbals too), and sometimes with sticks, all the while keeping the kick drum pounding underneath: very effective, and nicely mic'ed up too. The sound engineers were indeed excellent, effortlessly handling the very complex setups we demanded of them with our crazy amounts of drums proving just how good live sound can get in a field, with tremendous deep bass! They were also spinning some cool reggae and dub in between the bands throughout the day - nice to see a real turntable in a tent :-)


Indian Summer Festival [POSTPONED]

Tags: Music, Drumming, Arts, Eco

A special all-day event promoting indigenous music from around the world, to be held in the village of Aston near Stevenage in Hertfordshire. Expect drumming workshops+performances, music, dance, good food and drinks,...

I have been appointed Music Director of the festival and will be working with the Funding Committee to organise things, so stay tuned for updates. [UPDATE: Sadly I later had to give up organising this project as there aren't enough days in the week, but I'm still performing and teaching there.]

[The event has been postponed until midsummer 2009-06-20.]

Software Freedom Day

Tags: Computers

Celebrate Software Freedom Day instead :-)


Vitae Drummers' tenth birthday celebrations

Tags: Drumming

Vitae Drummers celebrated ten years of big beats with a lavish party in Loosely Row Millennium Hall :-)

During the evening I also got to dress up in my medieval minstrel costume and a few of us drummers accompanied a celtic harper called France, along with a cellist and Justine's dad on soprano sax; Jed played his bougarabou drums while Anthony and I chimed in with triangles and shakers. It was certainly a most delightfully gentle sonic combination that held the hushed audience entranced (even unamplified) and it was probably the first time on Earth that such disparate instruments have been heard together!

Later the sound level increased dramatically as the drums began. Two groups of Vitae Drummers took the floor accompanied by energetic dance. At one point during Djole I really wished I had a camera to capture the wondrous scene in front of me in my central position on dun duns: all five dancers in a line turned round to face us, with the audience going wild behind them!

Afterwards we danced to house music and world beats, albeit in the African way: forming a large circle into which people would dash and freak out. I managed some extreme cartwheels and handstands, and there was some fine body-popping from Agent Neil (not quite this good though!). Here's to another decade of drums and dance :-)

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 2009-06-19