Saturday, September 20, 2008

Drum circle - I

Six of us are hunched around our individual drums. There are djembes, kpanlogos and an assortment of toms and cajons. Nora is in the centre of the circle, wearing a loose blouse, tied in a knot below her chest, her midriff encircled by a thin gold ringlet. It's a bellydancing essential she tells us. She has ghungrus on both feet, and they look heavy, they look like she's about to dance up a storm.

She caught me smiling at her as she was putting them on a few minutes ago. She finished lacing them up and walked up to me slowly, and asked if it was just the ghungrus that caught my eye. Nora..ah Nora.. :)

All of us drummers want to make this next jam a spectacular one. We feel the electricity of intention as we look at each other, but nobody wants to start a beat we can build on. I think we're all scared we might play something we've played before. Nora can always be counted on to start us off, a few vigorous shakes of the bells on her feet and she gets a rhythm going, but she's quiet too. Like the rest of us, she feels the sizzle in the air, and she's worried she might douse it.

Rob begins to take off his shirt. I think we all saw that coming. He has this idea that his salon-waxed chest, his machine-sculpted arms and that manufactured tan will bring out a tribal fervour in all of us. He gets the collective glare. Shirt remains on.

The silence since our last piece has been long enough that we're beginning to worry. Though the crowd hasn't had to pay to hear us, they're still expecting something. The electricity we felt a couple of minutes ago is threatening to fizzle out.

We've had false starts in the past. Like everytime Rob's disrobed, or the time I decided this drum circle needed vocals. This time's not like that. We're looking at each other, and I can see the anxiety in each eye. Nora's eyes linger on my fingers and I want to say that's when the rapture struck, but it wasn't.

There's a whistle from the crowd. It's followed by some muted applause. I know how this sort of thing goes down, and I can feel my face flush. It begins. Somebody at the back shouts "it's easy! A wimba weppa wimba weppa" People laugh. But we've just played a good set, so the respect hangover stifles what would have become a good heckle from the crowd.

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