During my last bata lesson I realized I’m at an impasse on many levels in my life. I have yet to look up the dictionary meaning of “impasse” but to me it means facing a difficult and unclear junction in the road of my personal life journey.
When I walk down the street to my bata lesson, I no longer take my own okonkulo or shea butter to lubricate my hands. I just play the okonkulo that the other student brings from a set she’s borrowed from some drumming fanatic friend. I make a point of not arriving right at 7 because she has to arrive, park her car, unload the drums and get herself settled and I don’t like waiting around while she does it.
I know that by doing so, she can shake off a little of the stress from her long hours as a physical therapist and settle into what she feels is her turf. Doing so spares me having to field her fatigued, half- assed small talk, and keeps me from playing the drums when she’s trying to settle in. I know from experience she hates having to listen to me when she doesn’t feel like it and the class hasn’t started. Her being deaf in one ear and having to fight like hell to learn how to play things right is why.
This does not mean I don’t like her and that we don’t have a rapport. We do around surviving our fierce cuban perfectionist teacher’s mad onslaughts of high pressure instruction. But the situation has now become all about her and the master.
She has stamina, strength, and some technique, but since we never play or practice outside of class, she has poor small pattern retention. The itotele plays a great deal of small pattern breaks and variations cued by the Iya and not long stretches of simple pattern rhythms. This means that she has to be re-taught a lot of the old basic material while our teacher is trying to teach her anything new. Timing-wise, the wheel has to be re-invented so to speak- almost every lesson.
What this means is that I have to sit and play the same ol same ol or cool my heels and learn very little. My progress as a drummer is almost at a complete halt and I’m starting to lose interest.
The irony of all this is that when my teacher tried to start me on the Iya, she was in the position I was- having to play the same ol same ol exhaustively or sit while I fight with Mr. Perfection who’s pushing me too hard to learn complicated stuff way too fast.
The good news is that I’m not angry and wanting to lash out at anyone or makes waves at all. The bad news is that I don’t want to be there anymore. I want to go somewhere where it’s a better and different situation for me as a drumming student and player.