I know, I know – I have been a rubbish blogger! Please forgive me, my dear reader! If I was to try and excuse myself, I would say “I can’t believe it’s been over a month since my last post!” “I have been busy..” or “I have struggled to find inspiration!”
All of these are valid arguments to some extent. Let me tell you one thing – final year at Uni is pretty tough… Time-consuming, nerve-wrecking and sleep depriving. People will expect from you to do more than is physically achievable in the limits of a daytime, so you will have to sacrifice part of your nights if you are anything like me. You have been warned!
Now, on to something actually positive… African drumming!
Yes – you heard right! And here it is how that relates to my life of a final year Law student…
Fellow law students and lawyers reading my blog will understand best – once you get into law, the creative part of your brain just somehow loses priority. Some years ago, I used to play the piano, and I used to be good at it. I was getting to a point where I could actually make my own music – and it sounded decent. Then I chose to go into Law. I left music behind me. Some years on, and I started missing being creative. What did I do? I bought a keyboard (not a PC one, though I do have one of these too!) I went to play… and then was the disappointment – I had lost it! I tried hard to refresh my memory on how to read notes properly and how to make music. It didn’t work very well so I decided to leave that behind.
So where do drums come into this story?
Well, this week there was what was called ‘Impact’ week at my University – an employability week with events concentrating on different transferable skills. I had a look at the event calendar a couple of weeks ago and it was fully booked apart from one session titled ‘Creativity and Teamworking: African drumming experience’. It caught my attention and I signed up, without actually knowing what to expect from it.
So there I went yesterday – and guess what – I actually got to play African drums! If I am to describe this experience with a few words – it was absolutely amazing, mind releasing, stress relieving and stimulating!
But here is some reasoning as to why I felt that way…
Being creative again for an hour
As I mentioned, it has been a while since I’ve had to use the creative part of my brain. And whenever I have had to do it, I have struggled for ideas. It has been argued that everyone has the capacity to have great ideas and be creative but the question is how often you exercise your creative muscles. And what a better way to exercise those muscles than through music?
Now, I have previously understood music as something strictly bound by rules [no wonder I am now doing law!] – each note has a meaning and you have to read it right in order for it to sound right. Then different tones go together in different patterns, and you ought to know how to combine them in order to make decent music.
It turns out it is a bit different when it comes to African drumming! The person who led the drumming session started by sharing an African saying with us: ‘If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing.’
‘Forget all about your self-criticism, leave that behind – all of you can sing, and all of you can dance!’
We started the session by a little warm-up ‘clapping’ exercise where we formed a circle and each of us had to pass a ‘clap’ to the next person who then ‘caught’ it and passed in on to the one next to him! We started by doing this in a conventional way, but then we were prompted to be more creative as to how we ‘pass’ or ‘throw’ the clap on – it was quite a fun exercise!
We then learned a little African song which consisted of these words only: ‘Senua de dende Senua’ which, as I later found out is a Ghanaian folk song about a mother calling for her child using a pet-name. This song moves by step and is not too difficult to sing in 2 parts as the voices are nearly always a third apart. We actually sang in two voices and it sounded nice too! For the musically minded of you, here is how the song goes:
Next thing – we got a drum each and started learning patterns and rhythms and then combining them to make a melody. Although we were taught some strict patterns we were advised to let the creative urge go and add something from ourselves too if we felt like it. I did it, and it worked! Without even putting any thought in it!
Drumming in a team: feel the rhythm
The other great thing about this experience was team building. In the midst of huge workloads it’s very easy to disconnect from one another and work in “silo” mode. I do it all the time! But, we all know of the importance of being able to work in a team. And here comes music again.
We were divided into small groups and each of us was given a different rhythm to play. We then combined it all together. Now you can imagine what a mess this may sound like, if we are not listening to each other. That’s why we did. We worked in a team, listening to what the other was playing and it served as a guide to the pace of our own rhythm.
Last but not least, and what I maybe enjoyed most about this experience was being able to switch off from my otherwise busy daily routine. Switching my mind from my workload is something I have always found difficult – no matter what I do, I always have my work in my mind (yes, I’m quite sad I know). But African drumming did it for me! I was not thinking – I let go of all my issues, and worries, and stress and just enjoyed the moment! It was fantastic!!
I couldn’t stop smiling through the whole thing – I’m sure I’ve extended my life with a few years! I came home feeling completely energized! I was able to concentrate and be much more productive with my workload afterwards.
Moral of the story
Now, the moral of the story is — find something that you enjoy doing, something that helps you switch your mind off, even if it is just for an hour. Whether that would be gym, jogging, drawing, painting, yoga… or drumming, just find it and do it! It will make all the difference as to how productive and creative your mind will be afterwards!
I shall leave it you at that for the moment, and hopefully will soon be back with more of my ‘final year law student’ mootings.
Until then, I shall be looking for regular African drumming classes in my area. And you now know what has just made it to the top of my Christmas wishlist too!