In my current congolese class, two drummers now have come into their pounder phase. Because congolese drumming for dancers requires speed, skill, and endurance, once any drumming student who perseveres stops being a beginner, they go through what I call a pounding phase. This phase occurs when a drumming student has enough strength and skill to go fast and be loud, but not enough experience and focus to keep from drowning everything out or be steady in pace.
I went through my pounder phase for quite a long time. To be fair, congolese drumming is not easy, and getting to a point where you stop struggling to play fast enough, loud enough and with some skill is a point of progress. Still, I was a little taken aback by these two banging away, oblivious to the fact they were drowning everything and everyone else out. I’m at a different place with my drumming, where I don’t have to labor and grind the way I used to, because no one else in the class was at my level. My focus is now about developing refinement. Playing light and relaxed is what I’m working on.
I have since realized my idea that I “had to” be the one to drum hard and more correctly was my attachment to ideas that were not necessarily true. I found myself unwilling to compete with the pounders’ volume and did a lot less more quietly, even stopping here and there.
I was able to see that getting pissed and righteous would not only be a waste of energy, but cause a lot of bad feelings. I hate to be reprimanded by anyone except the master teacher. I realized I could avoid all that by detaching from the idea I am indispensable and superior. I reasoned that I didn’t have to like what they were doing, and I certainly did not. Many drumming students are blind to how they affect others in the group and the overall sound. I certainly have been that way for years, so I can’t climb on my high horse about it.
It was a bit of a circus anyway because the class had been advertised as free for new people willing to come try it, and we had 5 rookies who had come out of nowhere. 2 of those people stayed to dance, so we were playing a lot slower than usual and with less variety. I managed not to broadcast my dislike of the tempo and volume and stayed positive, until one of the pounders decided to chastize me for playing another beat that our master had said we were to play next before he stopped talking to the dancers.
Without looking at that drummer, I stopped playing and said ” It didn’t stop you”. Memories are notoriously short during a drum class and there is often a lot of noise going on while the teacher is trying to teach. That drummer had done some impromtu rehearsal-type drumming while Sandor was talking to the dancers several times earlier in this same class, adding to the overall noise level which I had roundly disliked. This reminds me of a drumming T-shirt I’ve seen online which says: I’ll play softer if you play better”. While I am glad I have learned how to wage peace and feel it is worth all the avoiding of unnecessary conflict and firing up of my ego, I also feel I don’t have to swallow anything from the banger-come-latelys. It’s a good feeling.