Hand Drum Lessons & Notation for Djembes, Dununs & Bells

Friday Night Jam (excerpt)

[excerpt from a journal chronicling music jams 1991-95; photos more recent]

music jamA long chat with Michel yesterday on drumming and jamming: the need to be more out there, present, expressive, not flat and holding back, but dynamic: moving in and out of the rhythmic base, with others supporting and being supported: taking and giving space for solos: jazz practice. Controlling beats and striking clearly; keeping it together whether on the base or taking off. Keeping the central pulse and the other’s place in mind at all times. Using accents: but using them for controlled effect; not getting lost with them.At the same time, he was affirming about the potential, the power, the magic, the talent that was there.

I feel a letdown now of personal criticism after feeling so incredibly high from the performance, necessary I guess as balance. Part of the vicissitudes of ego inflation and deflation. The bad news along with the good.

Michel has input on the drumming practice: listen. Play out there. That is, loud and clear, but together: on the rhythm, connected to the common beat.

A series of late night jams, 2:30, 4:30, 4:30, 3:30. With five, ten, fifteen, six players. All good, all different. Is it going anywhere? Does it matter? It goes . . . around. The sphere holds all the variations together. It’s a music of physics, not of railroads. It’s horses galloping together.

I plan, get excited. Run into people randomly in Nelson, tell them to come: the Quebecois woman, the New Denver guy, Lucy, Michael and Rowin. A slew of people from the Slocan coming, Ken with a trap set. It could be good. Sylvan with his big bass. Jack with big bass drum? Tell him, at least.

The search for common pattern, consensus, harmony, the holding force. The ongoing, moving force, allowing freedom within its gentle boundaries. Not dogmatic, not rigid, not unchanging. But dynamic, weaving, changing and evolving together, with continuity of tradition and resonance of each to the other. This is political, literally on the level of teaching form. How to be as a group, how to play together. Synergy.

And I care about the quality of the experience for others. Why? Because it is a group experience, and I am not happy if all are not. Back to consensus model, politics. Musical democracy. Sylvan: You can tell a lot about a person, playing music with them.

The comfort of many people playing drums: all are welcome, even me. Some are better, some worse. It doesn’t matter. The tribal mentality. All have a part to play, even if we’re not all virtuoso soloists. All can contribute, and enjoy the fruits of participation.

I want to show off, and enjoy the experience. This is natural ego, living. Plunging boldly into the thick of life.

(January 24, 1993)


Read more – Friday Night Jam, by Nowick Gray (2014)

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