I have two drumming masters who are terrific. They’ve dedicated their lives to their cultural arts of singing, dancing and hand percussion proficiency. Their skill, talent, endurance, and passion is unmistakeable. Their job is not easy, for they deal constantly with people and their resistance to learning. They deal with ignorance, clumsiness, inattention, laziness, hostility, and passive disrespect in all it’s myriad forms. They are dependable, committed, and very consistent in most ways. I respect and love these guys for what they bring and who they are.
And yet, they have their weaknesses. They are just human beings, after all. My congolese master speaks many languages, and he has a memory like a steel trap for dance moves and rhythms which never falters. But here and there when he is giving instructions to us in class, his mind seems to jump contextual tracks and we students end up floundering because his instructions for certain exercises suddenly change without him making it clear to us what he wants. For people new to this, it’s terribly confusing and frustrating, baffling even, when he is so precise in other ways. As we become more experienced as drummers, we accept this quirk in an otherwise brilliant master because if he was too perfect how would we ever relate to him? And he brings us so much.
The other master loves to insist on, and demand competence in multiple ways right off the bat when he’s teaching us a new rhythm. While he’s learned english and there is less of a language barrier, there still is one, and he has a way of confusing the heck out us, his students, by demanding we do one thing and then it’s opposite. He’ll say “No espeed” and then he will play faster and wonder why we don’t. He changes gears so fast, he leaves us in the dust. So much of what he does is a contradiction of what he’s demonstrated the minute before, that we sometimes feel as though we can’t ever play well enough for this guy. “The Pur-fection, the Pur-fection” he will yell. I sometimes get a mad on because of this, and then have to just focus on staying present. He expects competence immediately in things which I can’t deliver. My progress with this chronic impasse is that I don’t get hopping mad, sit fuming and frothing, cry out of sheer frustration and barely stay in my seat anymore. I give him a little guff and don’t feel as devastated. And he repeats whatever it is that he’s trying to get me to do, and somehow, in some utterly mysterious way, I eventually end up doing it to his standard, in spite of it’s impossibility.
I believe these imperfections exist because they must to balance out the near state of immortal contact these human beings have with the divine vibrational universe. Their fallibility exists to keep them able to forgive it in their students on some absolute level.