Today at my bata lesson we were doing a relatively simple bata rhythm for the orisha Chango. It was, in fact, elementary but me and the other student were all over the map and inconsistent in our volume, speed and meter. We didn’t have a lesson last week because I went to a cheese making class and the other student was out of town. We really missed having the lesson.
Our teacher, a cubano from Havana, is beginning to get his sea legs with the english language, just as we are getting ours with bata. He is now beginning to talk to us in halting sentences about more complex concepts than bad or good, “Fat”(fast) or “Se-Lo”. But still his own blend of language prevails. When he wants us to continue the steady left hand strokes on the Itotole, he says “No Estop.”
We still don’t completely understand what he means when he says “NO EsPEED.” I think now it has something to do with not rushing the thing and being grooved into the pattern no matter what the actual speed of play, but that’s only a theory. We aren’t particularly good at going deliberately slow, though we are improving, but we are often too unsteady to speed up without sinking the precision boat, so to speak. And precision is what our bata teacher lives by, even when we can’t follow him to save our lives. And yet, we have never been better.
There is no way we would ever have gotten this far if we didn’t have this bata superman from Havana. The real progress is having the ability to tolerate the whole process of learning. We no longer feel as though we are tied to the oars of a galley with the drillmaster saying incomprehensibly at us, although once in a while it still feels that way to me.
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