Saturday, September 20, 2008

Drum Circle - II

All six of us come from different schools of drumming, and when we aren't playing for crowds, we like to talk about these systems of percussion. It help us understand the cultures we represent, and how those cultures permeate into our soundplay. For instance, Latin American percussion, while parts of it can be subtle and layered, is mostly loud in its impact on the listener. Loud in colour, performance and presentation, and loud in the way it dominates a musical performance. Extremely enjoyable. You could re-read this paragraph pretending I was talking about the region and the people, and not much would be amiss.

And a good Indian percussionist can make love to a crowd. The parallels begin with the foreplay of an alaap, and extend to that shocked silence at the end of a rela, before the crowd unwinds itself with applause, like a Gold Flake in bed. But there's the other idea that Indian percussion can create a sense of harmony. It sets things right and the mechanics are simply explained. The basis of any beat in the indian system is circular. At the completion of the pre-defined notes that make up the taal, the beat returns to the sam, the initial note that started off the taal. The sphericality of this return to the origin lets us know all is well with the world.

We discuss these and other systems not just in the contexts of culture, but also in terms of the underlying math, the techniques, the allowed improvisation and the boundaries of where the sound can go before it breaks the rhythm system and becomes part of some other system, new or not.
But the discussions have a shallower purpose. We want to know where each of us is coming from so that we can tell where each of us is going to go, and in no metaphorical sense :) If Chris is the one soloing, with his clean-cut rock background, there's going to be no syncopation surprises when he ends his solo, and I know easily at what point in time I'll need to pick up when he leaves off.

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