This was meant to be a workshop on world percussion for keystage 2, but for some reason only a few of us chose to join it. I had put my name down for a song-writing workshop, which would have been a very good idea to attend, and I was sorely tempted by another singing workshop for creating a cappella versions of favourite songs, but then I looked in and saw this array of wonderful, wonderful instruments, and decided that life would not be complete without spending some time playing them.
We started by listening intently to Steve playing some Tibetan Singing Bowls, breathing, feeling the sounds in our body… oh yes… definitely getting into the zone here!
There were enough sets of table drums for us all to play together, and learn some basic rhythms. Because there were so few of us, and we were all confident musicians, we had a whirlwind tour through counting using our thumb to mark out the sixteen beats against the joints and tips of the fingers, repeating the vocal rhythms that we had learned to play, switching between rhythms, mixing and combining them to make new patterns and then somehow managing to find our way back together again…
This would all have been blissful enough, but then Steve produced a Udu, or Ibo, drum, and I fell in love with it. It makes the most wonderful gulping sound when you play with the palm of your hand over the hole on the top. All my spare coppers are now being diverted into the Udu Drum fund until further notice.
He lead us in playing together, starting from the table rhythms, but moving through all the instruments he had brought (chimes, buffalo drums, the most beautiful pentatonic slit drum I have ever heard, tambourines, bells, guiros, frog-croakers, to mention some of the instruments set out before us).
It made me realise just how great it is to make music together, not as a teacher, or as a leader, or as a role model of any kind, but as myself, listening to each other, sharing, complementing and just enjoying the feeling of being in unity. We were all sad when it was time to stop and return to teacher-land.
I’m left with this challenge: how can I make it possible for my children at school to experience this freedom and joy of making music together? What (if anything?) do I need to have taught them, so that they are able to play like this?