Djembefola - Djembe Forum

Author:  michi [ Wed Apr 28, 2010 7:26 am ]
Blog Subject:  Mini-Guinea San Diego, April 2010, days 1 & 2

So, here is an update from Mamady's Mini-Guinea camp in San Diego. I'm jet-lagged as all hell, so this is going be quite brief...

Linda and I got on a plane Saturday evening, after teaching two drum classes and a dance class in the morning. Flight was uneventful. The most notable thing about it is that it takes about 20 hours door-to-door to finally get there :(

We arrived 5:30pm and got to our truly shabby and awful (but cheap) hotel near LAX by about 7:30pm. Looking for dinner, we ended up at a strip mall that appeared to be the only available option within walking distance; the kind of place with about six different food outlets, all of which have "cholesterol overdose" or "food poisoning to be expected" somewhere in the fine print. In the end, we settled on the least-dangerous looking place, a small Indian restaurant. We ended up getting one of the best Indian meals I've had in several years. Truly great food--it's a pity that I'll never eat there again (because it would mean having to stay at the same hotel again...)

Thanks to jet-lag, the night was unmercifully brief. I went to bed at 11:30pm (after being awake for around 28 hours) and slept like a log until precisely 4:00am. End of sleep... Watching TV at 4:00am is an enlightening experience. I learned a lot about slow cookers, fitness programs on DVD, and how to get a better love live...

At 11:00am on Sunday, Bruce (another attendee to the camp) picked us up and we drove to San Diego. Seven of us have rented a house for the two weeks. The house turned out rather plush--3000 square feet, granite bench tops and stainless steel appliances in the kitchen, pool table, patio with BBQ, broadband internet access, and a giant TV in the living room (good for watching Mamady's DVDs...) We are living it up for a drum camp! :-)

Sunday evening, we had dinner with Mamady and Monette at a local restaurant. There are 30 students for the camp, most of whom made it to the dinner. Mamady gave a very nice welcoming speech, thanking us all for showing up and telling us yet again how important his students are to him. He looked bright and sparky and rearing to start the workshop.

Monday morning, we all congregated for the "sorting session". Mamady taught three rhythms: Bara (not the Bara from Mali). "Bara" is the Malinke name for the village meeting place where people congregate for celebrations and ceremonies. The rhythm is one of Mamady's compositions (6/8). He also taught "Dai", another one of his compositions. It's a 4/4 named after a close friend of Mamady's (and very skilful drummer) from Japan. The third rhythm is called "Djigui", which means "Hope" in Malinke. It's another composition of Mamady's that has an accompaniment part that is not all that easy to play, including three flams in each cycle, and most of the notes are off-beat. That part sort of turrned into the final filter to assess the skill level of the attendees. (Mamady also taught this rhythm in October last year.)

By the end of the morning session, Mamady declared that only six of the people at the camp are what he would call "advanced players" (which matched my own assessment). There are nowhere near as many strong players here as there were last year. He decided to split the attendees into roughly equal groups, sprinkling the stronger players among both groups instead of having an intermediate and advanced group (as he did last year). I can see his reasoning: by having a few strong players in both groups, he takes advantage of the strength of those players to provide momentum and carry everyone else along. If he had put all the strong players into the same group, he would have ended up with one fairly good group, and absolute devastation in the other...

The evening session was spent on the first part of the pyramid. The pyramid is from Mamady's days in Ivory Coast in the Eighties, so we are going to perform a "professional" pyramid as played by a professional ballet in Cote D'Ivoire. The first rhythm of the pyramid is one of Mamady's compositions named "Sira", which is the name of Mamady's mother. It's a 4/4 with a lengthy and complex introduction in typical ballet style: hard to play, difficutl to remember, and switching in feel between 4/4 and 6/8 on the fly...

Today (Tuesday), we had the first two morning classes. Seeing that there are no intermediate and advanced groups, I'll call them "Group 1" and "Group 2". (I'm in Group 1, which has its name because it starts before Group 2 :-) ) For Group 1, Mamady decided to teach Zaouli. Because Zaouli 1, 2, 3 & 4 are available on Mamady's Volume 4 DVD (which I highly recommend you buy), I suggested that we should work on Zaouli 5, 6, 7 & 8 (which he hasn't published as far as I know). Mamady thought that was a good idea, so we started with Zaouli 5. Cool break. Not too difficult, and a nice way to get started. Then we moved on to Zaouli 6 and made some headway into that before the session ended. We'll continue with it tomorrow.

Group 2 learned "Dibon" (also on Mamady's Volume 4 DVD). Mamady taught it exactly as on the DVD, with the same intro.

The evening session was spent working on Sira for the pyramid. We got through the (rather complex) intro and, by the end of the session, things actually started to sound really good. This is not a simple intro, changing feel from 6/8 to 4/4, and with a few off-beat passages that are not easy to feel. Despite the lower skill level of the students this time, Mamady managed to pull it off. I'm again very impressed by how good a teacher he is, and how astute his assessment of his students' skill level is. If anyone had asked me "Do you think these people can play that rhythm?", I would have said "no way!" Yet, Mamady manages to get students to play things that they never would have believed possible themselves.

Monette did some of the teaching during the morning sessions. That's the first time I've had Monette as a teacher and, believe me, she teaches as well as she plays. Her energy is beautiful, and her smile is just infectious. It's impossible to sit there and be taught without smiling yourself...

It's well past midnight, I've had very little sleep in the past few days, and I'm supposed to be drumming tomorrow morning, so I had better get some sleep. I'll try to keep you updated over the next twelve days or so. Stay tuned...




Author:  Garvin [ Wed Apr 28, 2010 12:46 pm ]

Awesome Michi! I think the Bruce who picked you up might be one of my first teachers. Sounds like a great time. I'm trying to get ahold of Taylor (Michael Taylor) in Chicago to see about attending Mamady's 3-day "advanced" class. Is Taylor there?

Author:  bubudi [ Wed Apr 28, 2010 1:14 pm ]

the house sounds awesome. it also sounds like a great camp even though the level is not as high this time around. looking forward to the next installment...

Author:  michi [ Thu Apr 29, 2010 6:40 am ]

Garvin wrote:Awesome Michi! I think the Bruce who picked you up might be one of my first teachers.

Not sure about that. The Bruce I know has only recently started dundun classes, and hasn't taught djembe classes so far.

I'm trying to get ahold of Taylor (Michael Taylor) in Chicago to see about attending Mamady's 3-day "advanced" class. Is Taylor there?

No, he said he isn't coming. I left a message on his voice mail today trying to change his mind... :)

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