SHEA Movement is a local West African Dance Community here in Charlotte.? I’ve known about them for a while and have attended a few classes in the past when they have brought in djembefola for drum lessons.
Every Tuesday evening they have a dance class at the World Dance Center in Charlotte, NC and I was itching to do some drumming.? WOW I had no idea what I was in for.? I’ve been playing for quite a few years now and have never drummed at this level before.? I felt like a beginner all over again.? I’m so excited to keep going and to learn more about these wonderful rhythms and beautiful culture.
At first arrival I was greeted at the door and immediately felt a warm welcome.? Lots of smiling faces and lots of passion for this art.? I set went in and set my drum down in the designated drummers area.? I was a few minutes early so I was the only drummer there so far (you know the reputation drummers have of always being late…)? As the other drummers came they all introduced themselves, most of them I’ve seen around and drummed with here and there before.
We started a warm-up I believe the rhythm was Djole.? I was thinking ok, warm up will be slower.. NOPE.. I usually play relaxed and laid back, I forgot this is a DANCE CLASS so everything is fast!? I’ve played Djole before, but really know the rhythm.? I picked up fairly quick but kept coming off beat.? I’m a decent drummer, I’m just not used to this level of playing and this speed.? It’s a different way of thinking about time, you almost have to forget about timing and tapping your foot and just play how it feels.
When we finished the warm up, I was thinking that must have just been played fast to get everyone’s blood pumping… The teacher started talking about Kuku and describing the dance and the history.? I was like, ‘yeah know I can show that I know what I’m doing’.? I know Kuku well.? There are lots of variations to Kuku, but the feel is usually the same.? Well, all was going good for about 3 minutes when I realized my right arm was about to cramp up… I just couldn’t keep up!? I’ve played Kuku for 2 hours straight before at what I thought was a good tempo.? 10 minutes at this speed and I was done!? I switched to a less intense accompaniment and was able to hold that down fairly well.
The other two djembefola were taking turns killing solos one after another.? I was just happy to be able to hold down the accompaniment at that speed.? The woman playing the dununs ballet style was right on.? She did an excellent job of keeping the tempo up.? All the dancers were interacting with each other and with the soloist.? The energy was great, super positive atmosphere, and I can’t wait to go back next Tuesday.
I’m really excited about being the new guy on the drum again!? Sometimes it’s hard to find inspiration when you are going over all the same stuff.? I am going to try and make it out here on Tuesday nights now and I prepared to up my skills!