Dec 1, 2013

Walkabout Drum Circle at EM Chill

It is not usually that hard to remember the bits and details of an overwhelmingly happy night. Walkabout Drum Circle and friends gathered the night before at EM Chill pub in Mar Mikhael for yet another outstanding African rhythms performance, and to bid farewell to Tom Harris, therapeutic drumming instructor and veteran Djembe player, who came all the way from Atlanta to share along his deep knowledge. It was the night I was at my happiest.

Allow me first to break the common rule of spreading out thank yous at the end (don’t get me wrong, I’ll do it eventually), but it’s just that I really feel so grateful at this moment. Thank you Jade and Walkabout Drum Circle for one unforgettable night. I still am not able to remember a single dull moment, a detail that pissed me off, a thing I didn't feel comfortable about. In fact, my day yesterday was so dreadful I couldn't’t smile all day long, yet, there was the night with the Walkabout. You guys made my week!

Alright, time for some bits and pieces. Made it there at around 8:00PM, gotten so late for rehearsals which were scheduled starting 6PM. To my utmost surprise, there were more than 16 drummers, other than the instructors, formed in one of the biggest drum circles I ever saw*, it felt so refreshing I gasped instantly upon opening that clunky basement metal door. Being able to take part in this breathtaking group is a thrill by itself, I was never both happier and more proud my entire week. I loved how everybody was so welcoming, smiling and cheering, all while closely and carefully listening to both instructors’ tips and hints; brought warmth to my heart at a certain point. It was this unity that rhythms were extruding that got so much to me, I just love when people are untied.

It seems that Jade was more relaxed than usual with his teacher next to him; with all the pressure and weight of responsibility before any show, they were stronger together. Tom surely contributed in lifting some of the weight off Jade's shoulders. No wonder though, crowds started pouring in right at 9:00 when doors were open, all until it was 9.30, there was literally not a spot to stand or walk in by then. The place was officially packed, all ready for the drum circle to roar.

Greeted my friends and went to take my seat and djembe among the drum circle; It was in these 2 short minutes that I had to recap all what Sandy had taught me right before the concert, I was to play two pieces, Bouchée and Balakulanjan. As usual, and failing to organize my thoughts, I left it to both my instinct and the group energy to be able to pick it up and make it through. No surprise though, it worked pretty damn well and the crowd was going crazier by the minute. La Rumba, on the other hand, was their third piece for the night, and their first time playing it in public. I took the chance of not being familiar with it to get a hold of my Nikon and shoot the piece on video (found at the end as well). I felt the earth shaking beneath my feet of all the outstanding drumming; I honestly couldn't stop swinging at some points, hence the instability of the video at certain times :)

A note on the side though, and being so inadequately never-ending seeker of what “happiness” means, I took the risk throughout my performance to check out the faces of my fellow drummers. Those who were experienced drummers, just like Jade, Corinne, Marie Lise, Tofy, Youmna and Nath were pretty much relaxed and enjoying the moment to the max, you could easily recognize it was what they did best. Their hand gestures and facial expressions were simple another show on the side.

All while at the same time, I kept browsing through the faces of others. Take for instance Ramy, Houssam, Rita or Christabelle. Their figures were smiling non-stop. Each and every single person in that drum circle was as joyful as can be; most of them had their faces smiling wide open, the remaining few were just having their poker face out of total concentration, especially during solos. And then it hit me, for a moment I decided to look at myself, and it came to me, I was happy. I was satisfied, ravished, energetic, extremely delighted and totally joyful. I couldn’t believe I could move from tension and being all edgy, to a state of mind where all is supremely beautiful at the time. It didn’t matter the dark colors, the closed space, it all is unnecessary. All it took was some fine wood, some skin, really talented djembe players and some extraordinary group energy to plunge in a world of continuous pleasure. All in all, the drum circle was glowing with positive vibes, the thing they successfully transferred to their audience and consequently to everybody nearby.

Later on, and right after La Rumba, it was time for our first break and for the novice djembe players to sit aside and watch while both instructors, Tom and Jade, and their experienced fellow drummers take over the stage and enrich EM Chill with what everybody thought was something out of this world. The music and rhythms were so stimulating it made nearly everybody dance and move to the beats, all unless they could reach the center, where they would join others in accompanying the drummers with marvelous bodily motions.

Being there would definitely mean you had noticed AT LEAST Maguy and her ravishing dances, I saw both happiness and pride in her looks towards her son, Jade. She hugged first thing when she came in. Everybody loves Maguy to the point she’s mom to everybody there, including me and the newbies. Tony on the other hand was hiding back there until he eventually joined his son’s band at the center and opened the dance scene for everybody else to join afterwards. The cheers all through the night were unbelievably energetic; I’m sure though the cheering was mutual :)

Walkabout Drum Circle are real artists to me, fighters as well. They struggle really hard to be present and make it wherever possible. A month ago they were in both Tripoli and Tyre, each at the farthest extremity of the country, having to carry around their utterly heavy luggage wherever they are. I still can feel the stench of their night at Tripoli’s Beit El Nessim, it was the night I had seen my regular friends emanating with good energy for the first time.

Ladies and Gents, I give to you, LA RUMBA!

For more info, Jade can be reached on his facebook account for group or one-on-one sessions.

* The Walkabout Drum Circle had had much bigger circles and therefore an amazingly larger number of attendees. Largest Drum Circle I know of had more than 50 drummers, all in one circle and run by Jade himself.

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