Monday, April 17, 2006

It feels so good to hit the djembe...

It really does. Let's admit it. And the better you get the better it feels. There is nothing better than hitting your djembe when you are really craving it. It is a really exceptional experience and brings an abundance of joy to the heart. When you create a sweet slap or tone on the djembe it actually is pleasing to produce. Inside that pleasure, I believe, is the secret to why we all have been drawn to the djembe.

The Incredible Djembe!

The djembe never ceases to amaze me. Once you embark on the path of the djembefola your life will continually change and grow along with your djembe studies. They are really not separate. As you grow as a person your djembe skills will advance also. The proof of this is when you do not play djembe for a few weeks and yet return to the djembe stronger and better than before. It is the wisdom you have gained during this period of time that is showing in your improved djembe playing. Djembe is more than just a set of rhythmic patterns and excercises.

Monday, October 24, 2005

The Djembe can bring new opportunities...

Once you embark on the path of the djembe you will learn so much. You will meet so many different kinds of people with so many different skills. It is amazing the network of talented people you will get to know if you continue to study djembe. The djembe is truly a community drum and a social instrument. You will find that in times of need a "djembe friend" will be there to help you. I have had friends who play djembe give jobs to other friends who play djembe. The djembe community is mostly a group of open minded, positive, friendly and intelligent people. There are always exceptions because the djembe is also a healing drum and can attract people that need healing. The djembe is the glue that is bringing together a revolutionary group of people in order to bring unity through positive changes. The djembe is teaching us to search back to history and traditional knowledge for our answers. Things were done for thousands of years the same way for a reason...

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Slowly, slowly the bird builds its nest....

You cannot learn the djembe overnight. This is impossible. Djembe is a lifetime learning experience. You can never stop learning with this drum.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

You can't force the djembe....

My teacher Abdoulaye Diakite has told me many times that, "If you try to force the djembe, the djembe will force you.". His teacher Suncaru Jara gave him the same saying. You cannot force a rhythm to happen. The spirit with either accept and allow a rhythm to be good or the spirit will hold back. Sometimes we may really want to play a rhythm right, and it may even be a rhythm that we can normally play very well, but for some reason that day the spirit says, "No!". We have to understand and respect that each rhythm has its time and place and we have to be more conscious when a rhythm just isn't going to happen. Many people will keep playing a rhythm for up to 30 or 40 minutes even though it is obviously not working. I never saw this during my travels in West Africa. In Africa if the rhythm isn't working out the drummers stop and move onto another song or rhythm. We need to understand that we are not deciding which rhythms to play, instead we are listening to discover and follow what the spirit demands.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Thank God for Our Djembe Community!

What an amazing community it is! I have met so many interesting people through my studies of the djembe. I often tell my students and friends that djembe is not just about drumming. It is also about the life experience and wisdom that is gained through human interaction. It is a psychological process as well as a musical learning process. We have to learn to get along with each other in order to play well together with open hearts. Having good social skills is essential to being a good djembe player. Djembe playing is not an individual sport. It is a team effort. We play TOGETHER. This makes it necessary that we know how to get along no matter what our personal differences may be. This ability to get along with various types of people is a subtle art and a difficult skill to master. It will not only help with our djembe skills but will also help us in many aspects of our lives.

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Djembe Happiness in UnHappy Times...

We are living in some very tough times these days. If we only worry about all the stressfull news and economic problems we are facing would could become sick. Thank God we have djembe drumming to take our minds of these problems occasionally. Djembe allows us to have real solid FUN. We need some more FUN in America these days. I played djembe with some friends in the park last week and boy did we have FUN! Playing djembe is an excellent way to release stress from our daily lives.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Don't Tell the Master to Wipe Your Ass

Never judge a person before you know them. I have heard so many incredible stories from Abdoulaye regarding embarrassing incidents where people have misjudged a person before knowing them. I have seen for myself students within the djembe community disregarding and disrespecting other students whom they have predetermined do not know anything. This is a very dangerous mistake. Always give a stranger complete respect and acknowledgement. You never know who that stranger may be. The stranger can know more than you. The stranger may be your teacher.

GOOD NEWS! You'll Never Know the Djembe!

Absolutely. It is nice to know that our studies of this drum and African culture have no end. This means that if you are having fun now in your studies, the fun will just increase forever as you get better and better, little by little. This truly is good news.

Some students get discouraged when they discover that learning the djembe is not going to be an overnight process. The djembe is just like any other musical instrument – like the piano, drum kit or the violin. It is extremely complicated and there is A LOT to learn. I can’t understand why people will approach an instrument like the guitar as a serious study which will require years of daily hourly practice exercises and studying but cannot consider that the djembe could deserve that same amount of attention. The djembe is a complex musical instrument on a par with any other. The more I study, the more I realize this. But rather than being discouraged by this fact, I am excited. I am excited because I am having fun now and look forward to having more and more fun as I grow older and wiser through the djembe.

1 Drummer, 2 Drummers, 3 Drummers MORE?

How many drummers make a good ensemble? 3 djembes and 2 dunun players? Hmmm… How about 4 Djembe accompaniments and 1 soloist and one dunun player who can play really well?

Determining how many drummers can play in a dance class can be a difficult issue. Some people prefer that beginners do not play and only the advanced drummers can play. They set an upper limit of djembe players, say 3 or 4 maximum. This can work at the expense of trampling on the ambitions and desires of the novice drummers.

My teacher once told me that he can play with a large group of drummers at all mixed levels. He can have 4 or 5 beginners playing accompaniment and 1 advanced student playing accompaniment. He said that he would only pay attention to the clean accompaniment, even if he had only one. He would play with that accompaniment and completely ignore the quieter out of synch accompaniments of the beginners. He said that way the beginners get the chance to have the experience drumming with the advance students which can inspire them in their studies. He told me that a master needs to have this skill – selective hearing. All he needs is one good accompaniment and the ability to tune out the rest. Like in Zen Buddhism, the Buddha can be in a peaceful state of meditation in the middle of downtown Manhattan. It is important for the djembe player to transcend and not be bothered by “the small stuff”.

Is It My Turn to Solo Yet?

My teacher always emphasizes the value of good accompaniment. Accompaniment is number one. If a djembe player cannot play really good accompaniment solo is not possible. All good soloists have exceptionally good sounding accompaniments. Theoretically one should be able to recognize a Master djembe player from the sound of his accompaniment only. One should temper ones soloing ambitions on a rhythm if one doesn’t have the accompaniment clean yet.

So many people these days are so eager to play solo that they want to skip accompaniment. I have played with people so many times where they played a weak and cheap accompaniment just so they could save their energy to solo. When you play accompaniment you should put your heart and soul into it. If you do this the soloist will have the support he needs to play well. If you give the soloist this respect he will give you the respect of a good accompaniment when it is your turn to solo. We should all be supporting each other and not be so anxious to solo. We cannot be like the man who wants so badly to run that he cannot tie his shoes. Do not be jealous of another djembe players soloing. If someone is soloing well, be happy and enjoy it – that’s what it’s all about.

Abdoulaye has told me that if someone really can’t control themselves and they just want to solo, he lets them go. This is his chance to relax and enjoy playing a sweet accompaniment. When they are finished they will come back down to earth and then he can have a chance to solo himself. A master will never fight for the chance to solo because he simply has nothing to prove. Bitter competition and jealously has no place with the djembe. Masters do not compete, they joke and have fun with each other.

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