The Smith's Journal - November 2008

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Exploding Drums

Tags: Drumming, Pro

I've not written much here recently due to an explosion of Real Life activities. At last my drumming career is taking shape; as well as performing, I now find my teaching African drumming in schools becoming more and more in demand as people find out about my work.

I'm contracting with Bedfordshire Music Services to provide African Drumming classes in lower schools throughout the county, which are proving immensely rewarding. The feedback from schools has been pure joy, and the kids are amazing; how lucky they are to be studying such vibrant music: in my day, it was all tiresome Handel and Vivaldi, uphill in snowstorms, and we were supposed to enjoy it.

I've also been teaching other community groups, such as Girl Guides and Cub Scouts, and am running a weekly youth group in Shefford, gearing them up to perform at their Christmas scene party. I've also led two days of confidence-building djembe workshops for underachieving youngsters, held in a 10m Mongolian yurt :-)

Trying to make a living as a musician is never possible easy, especially in our crazy times of boom and bust. Hopefully the education sector is one place where funding will still be available, while the private sector tighten their belts. Of course, in hard times, people need cheering up, and djembe drumming is a fabulous route to joy. We often forget that well-being is essential to a happy balanced life; perhaps as the trappings of wealth and comfort are stripped away, we'll realise what our true priorities are.


African drumming+dance footage on YouTube

Tags: Drumming

OK, today I've been holed up at Barry's place with a laptop while he's at work, so I'm researching YouTube; here's the best...
[If your computer can't watch embedded YouTube videos, you may find youtube-dl handy.]
[Due to YouTube syndrome I've had to include some timing information.] [UPDATE: Timings now directly linked ;-]

For imminent study:

And here are a couple more, pointed out to me by Barry and Lawrence. The former is a rather odd rhythm, in bizarre timing. The latter features Nansady Keita sitting down playing dununba and his uncle Famoudou Konate on lead dununba, ram's horn and lead djembe(s!) at 4'45". Nice dundun:djembe ratio ;-)

Obviously trying to catch the masters' hands moving on film is futile.

Musique de Guinee

Tags: Music, Drumming

Some of the above are lame quality. They were all beaten hands down by the awesome film called "Musique de Guinee" that we watched two days later. The film is in two parts (1.5 hours in total) corresponding to Conakry and the more traditional forest region. There are some unforgettable scenes of musical rituals and performances beside the ocean (one guy playing two koras!), and of course much ecstatic singing. The final song with guitar duet is truly breathtaking. I now realise that I have lots of work to do with my ratatak shakers, after seeing these virtuousi doing it for real. The film sound and picture quality is incredible (especially since it was made in 1988!), with very vibrant colours painting a vivid portrait of the joy of this traditional culture that vibrates with happiness. Anyone into African music really should hunt it down: totally amazing.

Drumming for a Charity Firewalk

Tags: Drumming

That evening, Justine and I were invited to play African drums at a charity Firewalk held at the Watermill Hotel in Bourne End near Hemel Hempstead. Accompanied by three other Vitaeans on dun duns, we played a rousing two hours of uplifting African beats to charge up and inspire the eighty people who were walking across hot coals, watched by a large crowd of friends and family who had sponsored them. Despite drizzle, the evening was a raging success: no burnt feet and £15000 raised for local hospices!

Our high-octane music went down well; I particularly enjoyed firing djembe solos into the crowd as the walkers marched over the glowing embers, and launching rolls and flourishes to coincide with the mesmerising fire juggler's spinning torches and neon skittles.

[UPDATE: We later played for another charity firewalk with the same company, this time in Bedford.]

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 2008-11-08 - last updated 2012-11-13