Discuss traditional rhythms, singing etc
User avatar
By the kid
#9529
VagabonTribe wrote: Most teachers I've dealt with, while cordial and welcoming, were not truly interested in teaching anyone the true secrets of the djembe. Learning the basics of the instrument and phrasing, is drastically different than truly learning the real djembe: how to truly achieve multiple sounds, specific phrasing techniques at various tempos, the real phrases for different variations. Most of what any of us get is a watered down version for the masses.
Surely after a teacher gets to know you and understands that you want to play properly they will teach you properly. I understand that some teachers cant teach someone everything straight away as the student won't be able to absorb everything straight away. It takes time.

On average how many years does a traditional djembe fola be playing before they begin to solo at ceremonies etc?

I'm thinkin it takes years to get to that standard
User avatar
By michi
#9531
the kid wrote:On average how many years does a traditional djembe fola be playing before they begin to solo at ceremonies etc?

I'm thinkin it takes years to get to that standard
Mamady says that he played accompaniment for seven years before he started soloing. Epizo tells very much the same story. (Six or seven years in Epizo's case--I can't remember exactly how many.) I've heard that same thing from other traditionally trained teachers too.

Seeing that I've been playing for almost six years now, looks like I'll be ready to play my first solo next year. And I'm not being entirely facetious here--it is only now that I realise how bad the solos I played two and three years ago really were. Somehow, playing lots of accompaniment for a long time definitely helps. (But then, I'll probably say the same thing about the solos I play today in a few years' time...)

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
#9532
Is it a matter of logistics? Real djembe teaching in Mali, for instance, is a years long process that involves apprenticeship. (A kid will carry drums for awhile, fetch wood to make fires to help with tuning, learn to repair dun duns, etc.) Here in the US, we don't really have a way of building quite the same relationship with our teachers. (Although I give it my best shot. I can carry three of his drums at once, LOL.)

I think building a deep relationship of trust is at the heart of this. I have been studying with my teacher for nearly three years (I am a baby, I know....) and know exactly when he is teaching me something that he feels protective of. (Sometimes he will actually tell me not to share it.)

I can't say whether my sex has anything to do with this at all. But I do know that if I am to get any depth, it is going to take years.
User avatar
By michi
#9536
rachelnguyen wrote:I think building a deep relationship of trust is at the heart of this. I have been studying with my teacher for nearly three years (I am a baby, I know....) and know exactly when he is teaching me something that he feels protective of. (Sometimes he will actually tell me not to share it.)

I can't say whether my sex has anything to do with this at all. But I do know that if I am to get any depth, it is going to take years.
Thank you for sharing this, Rachel. A lot of the learning/teaching process is about developing a personal relationship and absorbing the teacher's philosophy. Many teachers don't care about this aspect--they are in the market to make a living, mostly teaching (very) mediocre students, and a lot of the deeper meaning of the music and the art is lost. By the sounds of things, you had better hang onto that teacher because he obviously cares. And that is both rare and precious.

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
#9539
Building a teacher/student relationship takes a lot of time to develop the level of intimacy you need for that trust to flourish. It makes me wonder if it is possible for a woman to study with a man that way in Mali? I honestly don't know much about relationships in Mali.... Would a married woman be able to spend that much time with a man who isn't her husband? And would a Malian husband put up with her neglecting the household in order to do it? I definitely neglect the housework and cooking to be able to study, LOL. My dear husband puts up with all kinds of stuff. Even going so far as to give me his blessings for my trip to Mali.

Which makes me a lucky djembefolette, indeed.
User avatar
By e2c
#9554
rachelnguyen wrote:Building a teacher/student relationship takes a lot of time to develop the level of intimacy you need for that trust to flourish. It makes me wonder if it is possible for a woman to study with a man that way in Mali? I honestly don't know much about relationships in Mali.... Would a married woman be able to spend that much time with a man who isn't her husband? And would a Malian husband put up with her neglecting the household in order to do it? I definitely neglect the housework and cooking to be able to study, LOL. My dear husband puts up with all kinds of stuff. Even going so far as to give me his blessings for my trip to Mali.

Which makes me a lucky djembefolette, indeed.
Exactly.... And I think the issues you're raising here apply to many other American women as well.
User avatar
By michi
#9559
rachelnguyen wrote:It makes me wonder if it is possible for a woman to study with a man that way in Mali? I honestly don't know much about relationships in Mali.... Would a married woman be able to spend that much time with a man who isn't her husband?
I suspect that it would be very much an individual matter, just as it is here in Australia. It really depends more on the partner than the country. (Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in Mali, a mostly Islamic country, things would more strict than in the west.)
And would a Malian husband put up with her neglecting the household in order to do it? I definitely neglect the housework and cooking to be able to study, LOL. My dear husband puts up with all kinds of stuff. Even going so far as to give me his blessings for my trip to Mali.
Same here with my wife, bless her! :)

Cheers,

Michi.
User avatar
By bops
#9560
michi@triodia.com wrote: rachelnguyen wrote:It makes me wonder if it is possible for a woman to study with a man that way in Mali? I honestly don't know much about relationships in Mali.... Would a married woman be able to spend that much time with a man who isn't her husband?

I suspect that it would be very much an individual matter, just as it is here in Australia. It really depends more on the partner than the country. (Having said that, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that in Mali, a mostly Islamic country, things would more strict than in the west.)
You think?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8223736.stm
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8223966.stm
User avatar
By e2c
#9562
What bops said.

Very few countries in the world have the level of legal protection for women and children that most "first world" countries take for granted. (Includes child labor laws and more.) And the truth is, *we've* only had such things for a very brief time. There are even Western European countries that didn't allow women to vote until the mid-1980s; Switzerland didn't grant women's suffrage until 1990.

i also believe that even a quick look at statutes re. inheritance laws and the rights of married women in the US, UK, Aus and NZ will show that many of the kinds of things talked about in the 2nd article bops linked to are quite recent.... (Widows get shafted here in the US, financially and legally - unless they can afford to hire truly expert counsel. I saw my elderly mom go through a LOT - including losing her income for a while - after my dad died in 1994. It really is hell, especially for those who don't own anything in their own names and who allowed their late husbands to take care of all financial matters - both are still very common, btw.)

women's suffrage timeline (by country): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timeline_o ... s_suffrage

[/end semi-threadjack - i think context is important in discussing these issues...]
Last edited by e2c on Wed Jan 06, 2010 3:22 am, edited 1 time in total.
By VagabonTribe
#9563
I understand the necessity to understand how Africans learn the djembe, but I would suggest not to get too caught up in that. It has become an institution of the culture, dictated by life's necessities. The educational needs of the foreigner are different and logically, education would take on a different form.

I used to hang out with Madina N'Diaye on the roof of her apartment building in Bamako. She is a female kora player in Mali. She talks a lot about people who did not want to teach her. But maybe there are other motives behind their refusal. Do any of us know it is prejudice? Or does that kora player have a jealous wife at home and if he ends up spending that much time playing music with a woman he's gonna catch hell at home for it. If you think this is not a realistic probability then you don't know African women very well.

I have yet to see a woman play a djembe in an instrumental ensemble. In fact , the only woman I ever saw playing an instrument in a musical ensemble that wasn't specifically intended for women to be playing, was Toumani Diabate's niece playing drum kit (of all things) with him at the Hogon.

There is a string instrument here in Mauritania called Ardin which is specifically reserved for women. Everyone, especially the women, laugh at me if I ever try to play it. Sometimes the women will tell me it is only for them and try to take it. This type of reaction has never bothered me. They don't really care, they just think it is funny seeing a man play it. I guess I could get offended or feel they were being prejudice. Never really thought about it that way, though.

Just as Cuban music had a real push in the 50's it is the time for Malian music right now (too bad the Guineans can't get it together). I often wonder why any musician or teacher would not be interested in making money - afterall, it is their livelihood and more often than not they have children to take care of. It's nice to create relationships with your students, but is a bit moot if your kids are hungry and have no avenue to good education. It can be very difficult helping African musicians to realize their value in the music and economic world. One may notice that Mamady Keita's success in the wider world has come through applying other principles of education, recordings, books, standardized instruction, etc. This is part of the evolution of the African consciousness - especially in folkloric musicians. I guess this string is partially about that.

I have seen very accomplished musicians get frustrated in Mali because they can tell the teacher is holding back a bit. The process of learning is not the same for these people and I would hope Malian teachers will realize the value of their knowledge, not just culturally, but also the economic benefit to their family. Vieux Kouyate in Koulikoro is someone who will teach without limits, showing consistently very unique sounds on the djembe that I hear few players playing. Even though someone may not have been with that specific teacher for 7 years, they already have a decade of experience learning with other Africans, so to hold back would be counterproductive.

I believe one of the confusing aspects of foreign perception relative to African culture is being able to understand where many of them are. It was stated a number of times earlier that women in the west are afforded many protections and opportunities that women in West Africa do not experience. I recently had a conversation with a Mauritanian woman who was appalled by the fact that we "allow" women to be a truck driver. From her perspective her culture provides her a set of protections and opportunities that the Occidental world can't provide. When they see the unbelievable violent crime rates in the US, teen suicide rates, number of children living in single parent homes - they often feel their culture is superior, in spite of poverty - no amount of wealth could cure the craziness of societal sickness that the Occidental world experiences. So to operate from the perspective that western women are better off is not a matter of fact, but perception and opinion. I know American women who label African women as pros for accepting money from "friends", or boyfriends for "being nice to them". I know African women who label western women as fools for not getting something for their trouble. Each of them feels they are right and justified in their opinion.

Rachel brings up a good point. For most African's it is not about one's opinion but rather the necessity of fulfilling one's responsibility. Rachel's husband can be forgiving, the 29 other people in a woman from Mali's family may not be so forgiving if her hobbies take away from them being able to eat or wear clean clothes.
User avatar
By e2c
#9564
Per varying ways of viewing the world, I have had to make some big adjustments over the years in order to be an ESL tutor with Arab Muslim women and girls, so I'm very familiar with many of the ideas and views you mention re. different cultures in your most recent post, VT. (Especially because I have normally done tutoring in my students' homes, and feel very thankful to have been invited into their homes and lives.)

It's not necessarily easy for anyone involved in cross-cultural work to see the other's pov, and it takes a lot of work to get there, in all kinds of ways. But (as I said in an earlier post), I think the effort is worth it. (not that any of us will ever truly "arrive," no matter how hard we try, imo.)

However, just because something is customary - either here in the US or elsewhere - doesn't make it good. We in the US had a "custom" - slave-owning, along with its corollaries (US citizens involved in both legal and illegal slave trading, for one). Normal and customary didn't ever = "good" (in a moral/ethical sense) with that.

By the same token, I think it's equally important to try and see all sides of the matter before condemning something.

But I also believe that those who aren't able to walk in the same shoes as the people they claim to know about (by virtue of skin color, nationality or gender) might need to be very careful in stating that "the Other" is doing just fine. I suspect that's very pertinent, for example, for those in Mauritania who are slaves... (Just sayin'.)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/4091579.stm
http://www.magharebia.com/cocoon/awi/xh ... feature-02
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/co ... 02206.html
User avatar
By rachelnguyen
#9571
I have been grappling with some of the fallout from my trip to Mali a year ago. It has been interesting that a year later, some of the nuances of that experience are finally emerging. And one of the big things that has come up for me is the fact that as an American, the lens through which I saw everything was my own culture. I said to my teacher the other day that I was a little embarrassed about what Americans think about our culture.

"Yeah, Americans think it is the best culture"

"No. We think it is the only culture, which is even worse."

In other words, in a totally subconcious way, I was constantly comparing what I was seeing to home.... and maybe missed some important stuff because of it.

The family of 30 is a reality in Mali... and something we in the west don't have. I wonder if even the men in Mali could choose to have drumming as a 'hobby'? All the folks I played with there make their livings by drumming. I can't think of a single one who had any other steady job.

I remember one guy asking me why in the world I would leave my husband and kids, spend enormous amounts of money and travel for days to come to Mali. Why, indeed? It was a good question... and in my fractured french, I did the best I could to explain.

As for teachers needing to make a living. You are damn right they do. It makes me very angry when people try and nickle and dime my teacher. They want to hire him to perform, but want him to do it for free or for a ridiculously low price. I finally told one woman that he is helping to support 30 people back in Mali and that if he was going to donate to a charity, it would NOT be to the richest historical society in the state. I mean, really. He has a skill that he has worked YEARS to get. It is one that deserves compensation.

Rusty, your story about playing a woman's instrument made me laugh. I could just picture the whole scene.

So, the phenomenon of a woman who plays djembe as a hobby (or professionally) seems squarely centered in the west. But I don't think it is a matter of prejudice or sexism or anything else. I think it is much more a reality of the environment in which folks live.
User avatar
By e2c
#9576
I don't know, Rachel - because I keep getting info. about women in Iran and Egypt and elsewhere in the ME who are actively learning and playing percussion... in public, at that. In Iran, many instruments are now taught in school to anyone who wishes to learn them, regardless of gender.

In the past - and now - a lot of women have played these instruments in womens'-only gatherings. But increasingly, people are taking it public. I think that's likely because they enjoy playing music, period. And it's a big change from the norm, which was "Women don't play percussion."

I doubt this is about people traveling to the West, or being told by Westerners that they "ought" to be able to play. I can see *influences,* yes, but ... a lot of women in these countries have 20-30 people dependent on their work, too.

Could it be that things are just plain changing in some of these places? I have a hunch that's what's happening, though I would love to have more hard evidence as to why it's happening.

This was taken in Upper Egypt in 2008 (sorry for not being able to link directly; it's a Flickr thing): http://www.flickr.com/photos/rivertay/2 ... 954351507/

* I'm willing to bet that some women (like the drummer in the photo) are earning money by playing in public...
By VagabonTribe
#9636
Here's a group of my students in Idaho and Wyoming playing. Thought you all may be interested to see some more ladies playing on this side of the ocean. Go figure, musicians out in the sticks of the American west getting into African music and dance. And the locals appreciate it very much. :)

http://photos-f.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak- ... 9_8258.jpg

Daria, in the middle is playing a Malian Bonkolo.
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