I’m sitting in my bed listening to some music that Megan put on. It’s got this lovely vibe to it. These days, I find myself not just listening to music but also playing along with my mouth. Everything has a beat to it. All the time I find myself keeping a rythm. It is all because of this djembe.
I’ve been wanting to buy a djembe for a while now. I’ve had this deep urge to play music my whole life. It felt more like regret, actually. I wished my parents had forced me to play when I was younger. Because they hadn’t done their duty, I was left with the gaping hole in my development. Who else could be held responsible?
I went to the pawn shop with Amina. We sat around and tried the handful of djembes the owner had scavenged off of all sorts of strangers. There was one with a whole that he tried to sell to me but I was on to him. I had already played with this small bongo set I had found at a festival. Because of its loose skin, my hits did not resonate. I banged one djembe and another. I hit them again and again, listening with my heart if it were the right one. I still remember how little rhythm I had.
I ended up not purchasing it that day. My debit card did not work and I couldn’t get cash out. I came back another day and loaded the instrument into my car. I watched a handful of youtube videos to get started. It was hard to pick up to a place where I felt like this is something I could play at a drum circle to the listener’s pleasure.
Eventually I began to pick up what I was doing. I started off with a handful of beats that I knew I could do and began to tweak them. One of those beats began to sound like a dholi, resonating the room with bahngra vibes. I then began to play with keeping a beat over time. This was quite difficult as I had no concept of rhythm at the time. I began to use a metronome as a coworkers recomendation. That lasted for a few days and then I went back to playing for fun. There were many mornings that I would wake up and just play the drums until the bathroom was available.
I then began to practice maintaining tonality. Oftentimes I would be hitting the djembe with the appropriate rhythm but the sounds were not the same and so it sounded disconnected. As I began to work on a consistent tonality the sounds became more mesmerizing.
As I brought friends over I would play for them hazy from smoke and drink. This knocked off my edge and got me acclimated with the sound at a deeply personal level. The sound felt right. I began to play with story lines. I would start slowly and build to a strong beat. I would then alternate or leave the beat into more quietness and then jump back into the hard beat as means to form connection.
I have learned so much from this instrument. Not only has it taught me a lovely skill it has opened me to a new world. It has shown me love.