Tuesday, June 23, 2015

What are girls good for !

    I have the habit of spending much of my free time on the internet. This doesn't mean only "free" time, this also include time which I could have used for other activities. Anyways, that's not the point. The major share of the time I spend on the internet is watching videos on YouTube. They are going so smart day by day, if you have logged into YouTube and search something, they will suggest you similar videos next time. So as a part of this suggestion scheme by YouTube, I have watched many music videos, sports videos and many more. 
    One such video which particularly impressed me was of one "Mamady Keita”, a master Percussion music player from a small village from the African country of Guinea, near the borders of Mali. Form the age of seven, Mamady has been playing and encouraging people around the world to play a special goblet shaped percussion instrument known as the Djembe. Djembe is so popular now a days that you will not find a single percussionist on the stage without a Djembe .This video that I watched was a part of talk show from Dublin Bing Bang Festival 2009, a festival which brings the best of percussive performances, workshops, master classes, dances around the globe on a single platform. So, as a part of this talk show in which Mamady participated, somebody asked him about the origin of the very instrument that he plays, the Djembe. Mamady , a master drummer, a historian of music of his ethnic group name Malinke , was very good in answering such kind of questions. But what amused me more was the question that he asked as a reply of the question he was asked for. When somebody asks us about the origin of drumming music or rhythmic music, we always picture the same old image of some native masked tribal people gathering around a fireplace, some people dancing and some playing a drum; which is a part of either praying to their god, or making some sacrifices. Hollywood movies helped us greatly in forming that image in the back of our head. But when asked about the origin of this particular instrument, Mamady had something else in his mind. He said, before the instrument was born there was rhythm of popular kind which was born. These rhythms were not that sacrifice making or praying type of rhythm, but these were the rhythm of some common and popular rhythm played at the celebrations of the common mass gathering. So, there were the situations for celebration like marriage, baptism, the ceremony fishing day in the sacred lakes, ceremony of the first harvesting of cultivation, welcoming of visitors etc. Along with these celebrations were born the songs of popular kind and to keep the rhythm to these celebratory songs, there came the clapping. Hundreds of years before the Djembe were born, there were these three ancestors born - the situation for celebration, the songs for celebration and the clapping rhythm. And the astonishing fact among these all is that, it was the women of the society who invented all these. Later the blacksmith of that region of Western Africa came up with the idea of creating and instrument to keep the rhythm and they developed the Goblet shaped wooden instrument, tied with animal skin and rope, which today is known as the Djembe. The very idea of Djembe also originated from the women itself. African women used to crush or ground their food ingredients like seeds and all in a cup shaped wooden receptacle known as mortar. Two women would keep crushing the ingredients with a six seven feet long wooden club, they would keep singing in a rhythm played the club. These crushing in a rhythm invented the idea of Djembe.
      Mamady Keita finished the answer with a simple question, if everything originates from women, and then why don't have enough woman percussion players? Though the whole story is from African society, but our society also has the same puzzle unsolved. If a woman says she is into music, back of our head pictures her as a singer by default. We should change our mind-set about that. Women are more powerful, not today but since ages. India particularly is not so rich in female percussionists. There are a few who has marked excellence like Anuradha Pal, but we need more. We have a few all girls band in India, but solo female percussionists are rare. Rhythm is inborn to women; they should be encouraged more and more into the world of percussion music. Hopefully someday we will have female percussionist in India who plays at par with Shivamani, Taufiq Quershi etc or may be better. 

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