Friday, August 27, 2004

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”.

I fully agree with your teacher. it is a shame when those begining dont get a chance to be apart of the entire process, it really gives the student a chance to find themself. I began drumming serveral months ago, and if not given the opportunity to play with the big boys (albeit being ignored by the rhythm keepers) I may never had really experienced the soul. Drumming is Africans Kung fu (minus the movements, because they come with the dance and the message of the drum, and this goes beyond our modern expression of capoeria), and to feel the energy run through you is incredible.
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