African Kicked My Ass

It was awesome!

We played 2 rhythms I don’t know, though we started class with one that has a standard accompaniment I am familiar with. There are 2 basic parts that carry through most rhythms. Usually, one or the other pattern supports the harder accompaniment, and Quinn, who solos and holds us all together.

The second rhythm knocked me out! Quinn had to modify it so I could keep up. I wasn’t the only one, thank god, but man! My hands, arms, and shoulders are aching now!

Typically, 4 or 5 drummers make up that week’s corp. Today, we had 6 on djembe and a full dunun section behind us! (3 separate standing drums and rhythms, as opposed to the one regular fella who plays a version – ballet style – that blends what the 3 drums would do together. Sorry, can’t explain it better than that.) I can’t tell you what it feels like to have that music pulsing through your body, buzzing from head to toe and shaking every cell! It’s as though you can feel the space outside of your skin.

On the drive home, at high noon, a murmuration of starlings danced overhead. It was directly above me at one stop, and so big that you could watch it in the sky as the shadow surrounded you beneath. It felt like the refracted light of crystals in a sunny room, landing on you, teasing you. I felt like I did in class, like I was part of something bigger than myself, like touching the space outside of me, being part of it.

ballet style

Dunun for one, known as Ballet Style

dunun

What we had today! L – R: Dununba, Sangban, Kenkeni with attached bells … You can get a lot more sound behind and around, with 3 people on 2 rhythms each.

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Cedars of Lebanon

I danced for the first time last night at Cedars of Lebanon, a gorgeous, high-end Middle Eastern restaurant in downtown Salt Lake. If felt great to get the first performance behind me, and I’ll definitely be returning!

cedars of lebanon

Shahravar’s sleeve gives me the most fantastic belly dance booty!

beginning bellies

Beginning Bellies!

And this morning I finally made it back to African! It felt so good reconnecting with my community. I really feel like all of me is back, like the girl with Jax – even before I got sick – just pushed Christie out of the way. I never imagined I’d be the kind of girl to ameliorate to the point of disappearing, for a relationship.

I really just love my African dance community. The welcome I received there nearly brought me to tears. I feel loved. Rosie, our instructor, shouted my name when I walked in, so loudly that the dancers looked up from the din of conversation. My friends ran to me. I was embraced by these beautiful women whose ups and downs have been supported by this group, and who’ve certainly seen me through mine.

“I love it when you’re here!” Rosie said, hugging me. “You have the best energy!”

I can’t tell you how wonderful that was to hear from old friends, people who know me, after a month spent with the stabbing, echoing words of Jax’s cruel wife.

I didn’t realize how deeply she cut, or how lasting was the wound. It was, after all, absurd. Carrie doesn’t know me, and it was her energy she revealed, not mine. In any case, all I felt was luuuuv, and then we pounded that shit for an hour and a half!

Korejuga, my favorite rhythm! How timely was that?

I’m really happy right now. It feels good to write that.

Guitar Army

Last time I was in City Weekly, I unwittingly got drunk next to a reporter and told “rambling stories about [my] cats.” Our local urban rag is famous for its annual Best Of Awards, and the day it came out, FOUR people slapped the mag down in front of me.

“Christie! You got in the paper!” Unnamed, it could have been no one else.

From 2004 – when Penny unexpectedly started my family, joined 2 months later by Cricket – to 2007, I think I talked of nothing else! Our bartender and friend once said to my boyfriend, “I’ve never heard anyone talk about their cats so much, in my life.”

I believe no one ever has.

Twilight Lounge (my Cheers) won Best Assorted Clientele back then. “On any given night,” the writer quipped, “the pickled regulars might be swapping dirty jokes or telling…” said rambling stories. Pickled. Perfect!

****

This incarnation of band life is a mission by my friend, Wild Bill, to sing or play Ode to Joy in every time zone at 7pm Thursdays, so the sun will be greeted by healthy vibrations of happy intention every week, every where, as Earth cycles by. He has mathematical equations worked into the whole theory and, really, it’s the least we can do from our little outpost of the universe.

What I’m loving about it is that, rather than sing a whole set myself, I do a song or 2 between other musicians’ set ups, when I sit down again to actually jam. I’ve never understood what that really is. It goes far beyond the how of it. Coming from musical theatre, I speak rehearsal. What is that that musicians are doing who sit together, unknown? A foreign language, that’s what!

I’m speaking my first faltering words and phrases!

So far, so good, 2018. I’m the freakin’ drummer!
city weekly

 

Best Laid Plans

Finally, after more than a year-long absence, I was going back to African dance. My body can’t do the hard-pounding moves anymore – belly dance is absolutely filling that void – but I miss the community and I miss the music.

I was so excited to drum again! As I approached the theater, I saw an old friend and started giving him shit. “No, no,” I harassed him. “Turn it around. We don’t take riff raff.”

“Why are you bringing your djembe?” he asked.

I laughed and carried on.

“No, really,” he continued. Literally, in years of knowing this dude, I’ve never had a serious conversation with him.

“Wait, what?” I asked.

“This is the Congolese workshop. Makaya [et all] is here.”

“Ah, crap,” I stopped. “See you next week.”

He tried to get me to join them, but I had the wrong drum. He was sure they had extras, but I hadn’t been there all week. Once upon a time, I did brave a weekend camp with African dancers, including Makaya, but there’s no way I would dare drum with Africans! (I took a beginning beginners class with a guy from Guinea at that camp and held my own, but let me emphasize beginning. And I’d been studying for a year with Quinn, who’s legit, trained in Africa and India, drumming for 20+ years.)

I’ve danced in these culmination classes. They’re performances for the students and teachers, as well they should be. For some reason, I’m not averse to flailing on the dance floor. I’m terrible, but when I mess up I can laugh at myself and get back on track. Or just keep laughing and moving, getting high on endorphins and community.

Oh, I do miss African! I was part of that community for years. If I’d brought money, I might have risked a Fibro flare just to throw down on the dance floor. Instead, I came home to cuddle up with my cats and write to you all.

I’m satisfied. Someone’s purring on my tummy, another next to my head. >^..^<

Drum Circle

My cousin recently moved to Elko, NV, and had the idea to start a drum circle. She asked me to help, so I brushed up on a few basic rhythms, packed my extensive collection of noise-makers, and drove west.

First, I detoured north, to visit family in Twin Falls, ID. This was an epic winter for the Rocky Mountain desert plateau, and Shoshone Falls is higher than it’s been in decades.
shoshone

Farmers have already diverted massive amounts of water to river-wide irrigation ditches all across Magic Valley, and it’s still roaring!

Impressive as Shoshone was, I liked Cauldron Linn even better. You can walk right to the edge and dangle your feet over the river, which seems to boil as it crashes over rocks, and narrows into steep igneous canyon walls downstream. It’s deafening!
cauldron linn 3cauldron linn 4

The drum circle was small, but it went about as well as it could have, I think. I left feeling festy-buzzed, and the drive home was familiar and sweet. It’s the road that took me to and from Burning Man a lifetime ago. I’m going back this summer, for the first time in 7 years! It’s the 10-year anniversary of my virgin burn, and I can’t begin to quantify how different a person I am today, largely because of that strange thing that happens every year in the desert. It’ll be interesting to go back after so long away.
drumsOnly 5 people joined us at the Peace Park in Elko, but I was thrilled. My biggest fear was that someONE would show up. (That would be worse than none!) They all arrived within 15 minutes of each other, and we banged around for an hour-and-a-half straight. We got one groove going that was pretty darn meditative. Each drum’s voice met my ear like a conversation. It was joyful and trancey, and that, my friends, is a drum circle!

Best part? I realized I’d never seen my drums in the sunlight! I started this project last fall and my drums, like me, spent winter indoors. They are so beautiful!

I’m so lucky. Blessed, I think. I got to play at something risk-free that’s given me pleasure, respite, laughter, music, and a sense of accomplishment. I wouldn’t have done it if it cost me anything; the risk of failure is more frightening when you put money on it, in the view of a Taurus and a girl with a frail ego. A loving universe put me in the path of this wonderful, wild, generous artist. Marko and I met at Burning Man in 2007. We camped together the next year, and have been inseparable ever since.

Those drums are the thing I’m most proud of. Even without the positive feedback, they give me so much. They make my heart sing. Thank you, Marko!

brc '08

Black Rock City, 2008

(I can tell you one thing that’s changed in 10 years. People ask me now, “What’s your relationship with Marko?” These are the same people we’ve partied with for a decade, and now I seem age-appropriate for a man who’s older than my father?)

Oy! The 40s are for humility.

drumming-on-the-wall

Oh, I lie. I did see my drum in the sun at last year’s March for Love in November, after the election. It was a different experience to see them in the hands of others, with a little distance and perspective and, as mentioned, drenched in all that delicious light.

Halloween Capers

and Random Acts of Kindness

I’ve been taking a Community Ed class at East High here in Salt Lake. Quinn decided on a break from teaching djembe [that threatens to be a long-term shift], and I needed focus and music in my life. I’m not terrifically self-directed, so I pulled my old guitar out of the garage and started again with Beginning Beginners. I love it.

My wrist has not complained like it did when I dusted off my rusty, twanging dreams 4 years ago, when my real journey with Fibro began. I definitely feel it, but pain patches and yoga really seem to be taking care of me for now. LARGE BLESSINGS!

My body is my own again!

It’s clear that the janitors come during our class, because every week when I leave, the halls simply sparkle. For some reason [I’m weird], last week I got the idea to leave notes for the cleaners. I giggled and giggled dreaming up my caper and yesterday, I finally played out my little impish frolic. I ducked around a corner every time I heard someone approach, then re-emerged to post another note. No explanation can capture the why of this, or how hard I had myself laughing.

Trick or Treat!

Halloween is my FAVORITE HOLIDAY!

2011

Redhead Costume Idea … FIRE Itself!

second-floor

thank-you

“Excellent Work!” “Wonderful Job!”

Korejuga

Finally!

For the entire class last week, I was trying to think of the name of the Lakota group that’s an approximate equivalent to the Korejuga, from the Malinke tribe in the region of Guinea in Africa. (Korejuga are the jesters who show up to your party and tell jokes about you ’til you pay them.) They are the Heyoka. Phew!

Among the Lakota people, the heyoka (heyókȟa, also spelled “haokah,” “heyokha”) was a contrarian, jester, satirist or sacred clown. The heyoka spoke, moved and reacted in an opposite fashion to the people around them. Only those having visions of the thunder beings of the west, the Wakinyan, could act as heyokas.

Korejuga is a really fun, challenging rhythm. It’s a little frustrating, because it’s one in which the difference between slaps and tones really makes the music, and I just don’t differentiate yet. I try not to get – rah! – with myself because I am a beginner and I get to sound like one, but it makes a difference with timing, somehow, when you muddy over the distinct voice of each beat. I catch myself falling out of sync with the recording when I practice. I do love this one, though, and I love Quinn.

Quinn is the Korejuga of my life. He likes me, too, because I make faces and swear at him, haha! When I really zing him, he calls an “Air five!” or “Air hug!” Sometimes when I go for it, I get “DENIED! Oh!” Straight out of the 90s. He’s so much fun! He’s like a kid brother and I couldn’t love him more.

Now… I have got to figure out this signal! Why is this so hard? I can alternately play and fake the rhythm, but this signal is mocking me!

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In my first sweat lodge, my leader was Heyoka. I was confused, because this event was supposed to be so holy. There was no frame of reference for such an irreverent man. I, myself, am quite an irreverent person. Paradoxically, I also have a great reverence for spiritual things. In my own “Orthodoxy of Christie,” God or Whomever is freaking hilarious, and one of the most healing, loving, delicious things we can do, privately and communally, is to laugh. But my upbringing made occasions of gravity… somber. Not really. People tell jokes at church. The funny talks are always the most touching and human, memorable. The Bishop who made me laugh is still my favorite. But Sweat Lodge seemed to me like going through the temple, I guess. I’ve never done that, but I know how you act in there. Hushed and humble, not cackling and contrary!

I caught on to Chief Shellbone’s oppositional humor. Between one of the sessions, when he opened the door covering he bellowed, “Hot enough for ya?”

“NO!” I hollered back.

He threw cool water on me and I got street cred, haha! Aho Mitakuye Oyasin!

(Incidentally, whenever I start to “go” into the heat, I have visions of prairie people in wagons. Every time. Many of those with whom I pray here are Native. I have come to believe that my people, who met theirs while crossing the plains, are joining with us, just as their ancestors are. It’s so beautiful.)

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Oh my gosh, I’m the Korejuga! My friends paid my way for all of my twenties. (The “’til you pay them” part cracks me up!) I’d consider myself a mooch if I weren’t so amusing. Also generous and loving. 🙂 I babysat a lot of kids for free. Lucky me.