Lately I’ve been watching the war between our master teacher and the other bata student over the left hand strokes on the itotele bata drum. Our master teacher loves solid strokes and what he calls “LEEF” meaning life, or vitality while we are playing. But he is also a fanatic about correct timing, and where the power emphases is in every play.
I used to be scornful about the other student speeding up the left hand and hitting harder and harder, or “slammin it” when the teacher is telling her to do the opposite. Now I’m not, as I’ve been in the hot seat trying to do it myself.
More often than not, the left hand stroke on the itotele needs to be consistent, not powered, and slower than the Iya or Oconculo. But how in the Sam Hill can you learn to do that when you are having to focus on too many other things at the same time? The answer is: YOU CAN’T. You have to do it badly, do it wrong, hit too too hard, hit not hard enough, make your hands swell, get mad, get frustrated, and even give the teacher some guff because he’s gonna continue being the fanatic about it to the point of no return.
The interesting thing about playing drums is that you simply cannot get better at your stroke technique no matter what you understand about it without doing it a lot. I don’t practice, but my retention now is way higher because I drum twice a week instead of once. Though I am playing two different drums, it gives me some critical mass of drumming which has made all the difference in the world. The other student is physically fit, but deaf in one ear. I suspect it is the left ear. If she can’t hear what she is playing, hitting firmly means she can feel it. That is only a guess, mind you, and I haven’t asked her.