Rhythm is something you either have or don’t have, but when you have it, you have it all over.

Did you ever read that book “The Yes Man” by Danny Wallace – or see the film with Jim Carrey and Zooey Deschanel (quick aside: Jim Carrey (born 1962) and Zooey Deschanel (born 1980)? What were the film-makers thinking.). Well, in it, the main protagonist (i.e. Danny Wallace) decides to take control of his humdrum life, and turn it around by never saying no to an opportunity, no matter how strange or uncomfortable.

‘I, Danny Wallace, being of sound mind and body, do hereby write this manifesto for my life. I swear I will be more open to opportunity. I swear I will live my life taking every available chance. I will say Yes to every favour, request, suggestion and invitation. I WILL SWEAR TO SAY YES WHERE ONCE I WOULD SAY NO.’

Now, I can’t say I follow this approach to the letter (sometimes a girl just needs to sit on her ass and watch some Kardashian Kar Krash), but I do think there’s something in it – a way to open up your life to new experiences, rather than just the same old routine. Which is how I found myself performing in the Olympic Stadium, with Ian McKellan and Stephen Hawking just feet away – and why my neighbours have to suffer through endless evenings of me practising the D7 to G ukulele chord change.

And it is also how I found myself enclosed after hours in a work meeting room with five others, as I attempted to learn the basics of African Drumming.

The Djembe drum. (Image from Wikipedia)

The drums we were playing were called the “Djembe”, which comes from the Malian saying “Anke djé, anke bé” which translates to “everyone gather together in peace”. We learnt the three basic sounds: bass, tone, and slap, which have low, medium, and high pitch, respectively – and practiced using these three sounds in some “question and answer” rhythms, and to keep a basic rhythm going whilst our teacher got all fancy over the top of it.

Oh the glamour of Government meeting rooms.

We also had a good bash at the Dundun drum. He easily played a rhythm on all three by himself – but we struggled just wielding one each. Not natural drummers, any of us.

Our very talented (and patient) teacher was Ernest Kwame Obeng, who is originally from Ghana but now based in Brighton. He has worked as a choreographer on BBC’s Strictly African Dance, and has been an integral practitioner at Womad International Festival of Music, Arts and Dance, Drumcamp, and other leading drum and dance camps and residencies in the UK. If you want to find out more – or have a go yourself, visit his website.

My neighbours will no doubt be pleased to learn that it won’t join the ukulele in my regular repertoire of instruments.

Today’s quote is from the King – Elvis Presley.


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