Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kicking In: Day 9

Kicking In: Day 9

Xylophone and drumming in the morning, choral singing and dancing in the afternoon.
Nothing extraordinary, but the accumulated rhythm of practice and repetition is doing its predictable magic— we’re starting to make progress! That which was new and challenging is slowly kicking in and becoming part of us in the way that the brain always works— those rough roads of synaptic connection worn by daily use and starting to pave over with fewer stop signs and red lights. Our last class was reviewing the Bobobo dance, with half drumming and half dancing. We sounded good! And looked good! Relatively speaking, of course, with the difference one would expect from living this all from birth tied to the mother’s back and Westerners practicing it for nine days. But so satisfying to mark both the individual and group progress. Education works!

At night, we drew from the multiple riches of our 11 home cultures and had a lovely sharing where many of us shared songs, dances and games. The music teacher is constantly on the alert for great material and you could see light bulbs flashing over all our heads: “My kids will love this!”

Time may be cyclical in both the Ewe music and cosmology, but no way sidestepping its linear quality as well and suddenly I’m conscious that there are just three days left. Tomorrow the new feature is a brass band performance and once again, I’m stunned by the vibrant, living culture which is ever-changing and ever-evolving, driven not by new aps or machines, but by the constant invention and re-invention of the collective artistic imagination. We think of these African cultures as “traditional,” continuing to play music their grandparents and far beyond did and it is true that there is an unbroken line there. But as I believe I quoted once before, “Innovation is the tradition of Africa” and there is a breathtaking sense of drawing water from the well of creativity with whatever comes their way. The emerging choral music tradition set in motion by missionaries with hymns, the brass band tradition borrowed from the same, join the still-changing drumming and dancing to widen the scope of expression. Popular music ranging from highlife (now some 75 years old) to Afro-pop and Afro-rap is here as well, though jazz has never taken root— yet. Who knows what surprises are in store?

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