I love and I am in awe of the new school, the ballet style of drumming and the super fast hands and gymnastic like techniques of todays young and modern djembe foals. Truly amazing stuff. Beautiful and Intriguing. Most of all it impresses me. But…does it make me smile? And what am I feeling inside my body when i experience it. Does it make me truly smile? No, it doesn’t.
What i love in the hand drumming world, especially the styles born out of West Africa is the folkloric styles. I like to call it village drumming. The village or folkloric drumming styles be it West Africa, Cuba, Haiti or any number of places has a different purpose then the modern or ballet styles of the big cities. The big cities styles, the Ballet music is made for performance, to impress. It is for the listener, the audience it is entertainment.
The village styles are for the actual community. The lead drummer is not the most important person. There is a group which includes dancers, singers, drummers and the community. The drums serve a purpose to energize, to connect with to be part of the community program be it harvest, wedding, full moon celebration. It is not about showing off for tourists or an audience.
This is a very important fact to recognize and think about. As we are now talking about community spirit.
I watch Youtube a lot and I am seeing performance videos from groups around the world. I see wonderful stuff and my hat is off to everyone for the tremendous performing efforts going on out there. I would also like to say I feel there is too much emphasis put on learning performing and ballet style drumming. waving the hands and doing “moves”. Fancy moves and fancy footwork. I understand it is part of the ballet style, but i am not seeing and hearing the traditional solos, phrasing nor am i experiencing the feel of the traditional styles.
Many people are learning from the fantastic younger djembe masters, but hess masters are teaching ballet and performance styles and people are missing the point.