Thursday, July 19, 2007

Yesterday's highlight

City Gate, Port-of-Spain
Yesterday was not a great day, but Dandelion as usual lifted my spirits. In the evening I had my last class in the first phase of drumming. Rather than learn specific beats, I was shown techniques, as well as how to create moods and add textures, colours, tones and spaces. Even though drumming is an aural thing, I experienced the sessions visually. It's easier for me to understand things through images than through words (spoken or written).

E.g. there is a particular slap which I was not getting on the drum. Peter explained it to me as a whip-like motion of the hand on the skin, but also told me to envision this: "Imagine you are slapping your hand to catch a fly on the drum skin". That enabled me to get the slap and, with practice, I will really get it.

Yesterday he also made me close my eyes and every time he clapped his hand, I had to open them and there would be a new image before me. These images depicted either different moods or things. I had to spontaneously play what I was seeing before me. This was and interesting process. No time to think, just feel and respond.

Drumming really is like life. There are things I was learning in the class that I easily related back to life itself. Things like strength, purpose, follow-through, etc.

Basically, what I appreciated about this experience was not only its visual and creative approach, but the fact that it was not a matter of "This is how it is done, so do it this way." There was no formality and rigidity. I was given a structure and allowed to play and self-express within that structure. Once you know the proper techniques, the rest is up to you, the individual ... to just be you and express through the drum in whatever way you feel moved to. I now really understand how a drum can talk. It will take deep connection and practice.

Peter also told me that for all his years of drumming and instruction, I am by far the best learner he has ever come across and that I must keep at it. :)

Next week there'll be one more class where he'll teach me some traditional rhythms like Bele, stickfighting, Orisha, etc. After that I will seek other drummers and jam with them. Everyone will have their own way and their own 'tricks of the trade' to pass on.



Blogger Gary said...

Obviously you have found a good teacher, one who has the right understanding: of different approaches, and how structure merely serves as a starting point for self-expression. Great! Since you have gathered some musical experience already before, it is no wonder you are the best learner he met.
But I wonder: is there no wide-spread knowledge of traditional music in Trinidad? So you first meet specific rhythms, for example, in a drum class?

10:02 AM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

People may hear rhythms here and there but not know what they are or how to play them. In a drum class you experience the traditional rhythm by learning how to play it yourself and the name, maybe even he history, etc. And what my teacher and the stick fight drummers told me is that the traditional folk rhythms are slowly dying out ... people are now just playing rhythms that sound like a set of noise.

12:17 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Thank you. My question has been just out of curiosity, because in my country there's hardly any tradition at all these days, and it's not easy to imagine the circumstances in your place.
Traditions dying out all over the world...

1:22 PM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

... and new ones being born? Maybe in the future what exists now will be a tradition ... although ... do new things stay around long enough to become 'traditional'? Such a fast paced world now.

2:54 PM  
Blogger Gary said...

Yes, and there's also a lack of a certain closeness of smaller cultures, being dominated and infiltrated by world wide ruling coca cola burger cellular TV www. and ADD culture...
(I know I'm partly part of it...)

3:20 PM  
Blogger Hope said...

You definitely have a good teacher. It's important to learn good technique from the start so you don't injure yourself. The slap was the hardest for me to learn as well, but it was so satisfying when I finally could do it!

10:20 AM  
Blogger Elspeth said...

I'll definitely be satisfied when I can do it properly.

10:34 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home