Monday, May 16, 2005

Saturday night's alright for djembe

My friend Isako is an artist over in Kurayoshi. A few years back she and some friends formed a band called Aya, made up of young Japanese drummers and dancers who create a rich layer of African polyrhythms. Their live shows are simply fierce. I dare you to attend one and try to keep your ass from shaking. Once a month or so, they bring Youl and Mina in from Tokyo (I think) to give a workshop on Guinian drumming and dancing.

The other night I joined the drum workshop for the first time. I saw a few old friends there, including many members of Aya, some who joined the lesson, others who played counterbeats on the bigger drums at the back of the room. My friend Arama was also there, accompanying us on DunDun, laying down a wicked booming base that spread across the floor and shot up your legs. When Youl would teach us a new beat, Arama, would slink down in his chair and looked bored. He was wearing large black shades under his wild dreads, and wore a red/black/green tank top over camouflage pants. His bored expression looked more like a scowl, the face of someone in a newspaper photo holding an AK47 while standing in the back of a pickup truck driven by Charles Taylor. In real life Arama, is an unbelievable sweet guy, who talks to you in this soft French accent, smiling broadly and touching your shoulder. Near him sat a small woman who seemed to play drums with her whole body. I don't mean that she lost herself in the music. It was more like she was concentrating so hard on playing well that her whole body became stiff, moving in tandem with her arms and hands as they flailed against the goat skin.

It was a great night, and I left with my heart racing but with absolutely no blood circulation in my fingers.

On the turntable: Mali Music, "Mali Music"

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