I went into congolese drum class quite late and didn’t like having to find a different spot than usual to set up my rack and drum. A man from the Congo that sometimes come with the teacher was there, and I noticed I had a kind of territorial feeling of not wanting him there. The teacher had a thing going with the class which I joined without too much trouble.
But then he started going into something he’s been trying to teach us lately that goes to a dance. He has been confusing us all a lot with. It’s not a set rhythm pattern. It’s a series of complicated short pieces of fingering, not hard by themselves, but which have to played with precision in unison to sound right. He does break them down for us for awhile , repeats them just enough for us to barely get them, and then goes onto the next piece.
I usually pick up what he’s doing by watching him and his hands intently, using my focus and doing what I can. But what is obvious to me at this point is that he doesn’t deal with the fact we have no way of retaining this kind of material even if we write things down or record them, and we simply cannot progress at playing together because we only drum in class. Because I had prepared myself for something personally provocative to show up, I managed not to get visibly flustered, but I started feeling betrayed by the situation and wanting out.
I know all of this for me is part of an internal lifeberg of unmet needs and unexpressed feelings which I don’t yet have the ability to mediate in a safe way. It used to be I’d leave class burning and fume for days. Now what I am doing is stepping into the blistering furnace between the despair and desperation I’ve been ruled by all my life. I don’t stay there long, but I also don’t just stuff it down, forget it and numb out every moment of every day. I’m learning that appearance, the seeming of what I think I am feeling is never what it looks like. I finally really know that I don’t know what’s down there, and I’m inching along very slowly.