Wednesday, August 25, 2004
The Need for Speed
Today, especially in the West, we begin rhythms with a “break” and immediately begin drumming at an accelerated tempo. This does not allow for the building of mood or feel - spirit. This is why many times the drumming can only go so far. My teacher told me that with the djembe you must always “knock at the door” first before entering into a rhythm. No one likes when a stranger barges into your home without knocking. The same is true for the djembe. It is important to build the spirit through a gradual progression from song, to slow drumming and then to a higher tempo.
Speed and strength have become the new code words defining a good djembe drummer. I believe much of this has come from the “wow factor” that makes so much money in a Western world of excess. It is hard to shock a Western audience these days. National Ballets and Dance companies from West Africa were forced to play harder and faster. This is what Western audiences wanted – this is what made money. Talent and musicality had taken a back seat to speed and muscles. Thus began the Diaspora of the djembe into the Western world. This was our model and the model for future djembe teachers going to America and Europe in search of money for their families.
Djembe too has become yet another commodity in a modern world of ever increasing commodities and goods for sale. In the business world, quality is not the issue, the bottom line is what sells. If we are willing to eat shit, there will always be someone ready to sell it to us.