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There was excitement in the air today. I guess my body sensed the start some something new; of something familiar yet fascinatingly new.

I rented a motorbike and went to visit Mr. Aan to see the progress of the djembe I’d be using for the duration of the workshop. Karthik and Ameya, my students from India, if you’re reading this, one of you lucky boys is going to get this djembe. It is a well carved and well crafted djembe. Since the skin was just put on today I’m waiting I’ll it dries completely so that I can give it an extra yank to bring out its true potential sound. Here’s what it looks like:

Just before returning to the resort, I met Hirotaka and his friends from Japan at Mr. Aan’s djembe shop. Needless to say a goodbye mini drumming session broke loose. Ah, the wild and free spirit of a Djembefola!

With the djembe on the Balinese version of a Scooty Pep, I returned home to find the entire TTM crew having threir lunch at the resort. What was a quiet farm resort was bustling with sounds and many a rhythm to be… Apart from Mamady Keita himself and the immediate TTM family it was superbly pleasant to meet friends from Singapore 2010. Pat, Mok, Sue, Germaine and of course he official go-to couple for this years workshop, Nick and June.

I narrated to those who knew me and my work from the last two years, how the Djembe community in India is growing gradually and is getting more and more aware and Inshallah, shall see such an international gathering in the flesh, in the not so distant future. “It will happen,” were Kelvin’s encouraging words.

We had a few hours until the fist evening’s Pyramid class by Mamady Keita. After walking to the workshop area and taking in the calm before the storm…

… I decided to spend this time meeting all the people I could. The workshop saw around fifty five participants in total. The sheer number of people gathered for this workshop speaks so clearly about the magnetism of the Djembe and of Mamady of course. Countries like China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Korea, Poland, Belgium, Singapore, Australia and India (!) were represented in the workshop… It seemed like a UN peace gathering.

after the initial welcome note, introductions and announcements of the structure of the workshop, in true style Mamady kicked off the first Pyramid class with a piece called ‘Kudani.’ This is a performance that he has dedicated to his grandmother. From the start of the accompanying rhythms we felt the heat of the pieces to follow

The Pyramid is all about precision. It is a performance based on a triangular stacking of rhythm after rhythm, phrase after phrase. It is a true test of accuracy, memory, and excellence.

The phrases made sure were on top of our game and and constantly vigil, but most importantly I realized when I missed Mamady thw most was when he said, in the most earnest voice to all of us, “Don’t rush and don’t late!!” (Michi, my friend from my two previous MK workshops, and I looked at each other and shared a knowing smile.)

We reached the end of day 1 and were told to move to the main lobby for a welcome dinner and a special Balinese dance performance. We were surprised oh so pleasantly, as beautiful dancers took centre stage with equally colourfully dressed musicians supporting them. The had traditional instruments with them. Some sounded like the West African Balafon. I will find out their original names and out it up as I know them. The percussion instrument that one of the musicians was using, looked and seemed to be played like the Dholki from India but sounded very low pitched in comparison.

The dancers sure knew how to get the crowd going by making each one of the gentlemen, and some select women, from the audience come and dance with them one by one. Here were some of the highlights, Mamady, Sekou (our African dance teacher for this workshop) and Jeremy at their dancing best! Needless to say, Sekou took the cake.

After a long day of welcome, rhythm, delicious food and frolic, it was time to rest and prepare for seven more days of such promise. I leave you with what Mamady explained to us about the Pyramid concept. He said that even though a hundred drummers play with two hundred hands, it should sound like one very big, heavy handed drummer is playing; it should sound like ONE.

Come. Drum. Be One.

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