Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Six year old draws a picture of Karen drumming with her and her mom

Karen, Maggie & Mom Drawing by Maggie Ploufe, age 6

Jeh Kulu's Drum and Dance Festival

We had a great time at the annual Jeh Kulu drum and dance festival! Although all of our drummers couldn't make it, we had two dancers that did, Johnna and Melanie.
Karen got to dance to two drum rhythms she is familiar with and together with Melanie and Johnna, taught it to the Soma Beats dancers in Saranac Lake.
James got to play drums with the master drummers from Africa during dance class and he had a blast and elevated his level of playing one step further. The show was amazing as usual and we had great classes with Ismael Bangoura and Moussa Traore. Karen met Pape Ba from Casamance, the town where James' drum teacher is from in Senegal.
Next year we hope everyone can join us!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Marsha Kameron's Freedom Birthday Bash

What a terrific time we all had celebrating Marsha Kameron's Freedom Birthday Bash at the Presbyterian Church in Saranac Lake on Saturday! Over 70 people were there and Johnna MacDougall of Soma Beats shared her "babies" (percussion instruments) with the party-goers so they could dance and rock to their own rhythm.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Wulaba Drums for Adirondack Marathon

On Sunday September 21st, Wulaba was on the race track at the Adirondack Marathon in Schroon Lake to help those marathoners push through with the beating of the drums echoing the beating of their hearts. Together with Burlington Taiko and Songs of the Spheres (another West African drumming group), we were strategically placed along the entire race track until the racers went through the finish line. We heard, "Thanks for the drumming! That really helped!" over and over again. We saw kids on the sidelines cheering for their mom or dad and bouncing up and down to the beat of the West African drums while they waited. Wulaba got together with Len Mackey to perform together near the finish line, where Len performed on the Balaphone while Wulaba played drums. He also played the African flute which, apparently, could be heard for miles. We look forward to next year when we'll be able to jam together outdoors again! It was an awesome day! Karen

Friday, September 26, 2008

Capoeira, Soma Beats & Wulaba Drum at the Art Walk

Thursday Sept. 18th, which was the birthday of one of our drummers, Sandy Muller, we celebrated by drumming at the Saranac Lake Art Walk. Jamie Whidden was there on hand to show off the fluid martial arts moves of Capoeira, a brazilian art form. Jamie, James and I did some Capoeira together. I had a half Capoeira outfit - half African outfit on for the occasion. Johnna Macdougall, African Dance teacher, brought several of her Soma Beats dancers to dance with us. We even had a few spectators dance this year which was awesome! Just like last year, we were in front of the town hall - the perfect place to be for lots of attention! Karen

Sunday, August 31, 2008

New accompaniment to SoKo


New accompaniment to Kakilambe




Saturday, August 23, 2008

Lorraine Wilson Memorial Pie Party

Last Sunday we had the pleasure of playing drums at Harvest Moon Farms, the residence of drummer David Vana and his late wife Lorraine Wilson. Over 200 people attended this amazing pie party to celebrate the wonderful life of Lorraine Wilson who died earlier this year of cancer.
A big tent was set up and we celebrated Lorraine, the passion behind our drumming group, through the sound of our drums. Burlington Taiko graced us with their powerful beat and then Slyde's bluegrass melodies finished off the evening. We were happy that Stuart Paton, an instructor and performer with Burlington Taiko, joined us on the djembe with two of our rhythms, Soko and Gidambe.
We got to sample over 100 pies, both savory and sweet, and each of us signed a prayer flag for our dear friend Lorraine. The flags were strung up proudly from post to post after we all signed them.
The weather was perfect. And even when it poured later in the evening, it was perfect for preventing the HUGE bonfire from going astray into the fields.
We will always remember with great fondness, our drummer friend, Lorraine Wilson.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Saranac Lake Art Walk A Huge Success!

Thursday, June 19th marked the first Saranac Lake ART WALK for the summer season. We were cordially invited to play outdoors in downtown Saranac Lake, NY. It had been raining all morning, but Karen did her usual weather prayer to the Arch Angel Uriel for dry, warm sunny weather and voila! at the appointed time, sun shone! Since last year's ART WALK, we have doubled our repertoire of West African percussion pieces and unvieled several new ones never before done in live performance, including: Marraka Don, SoKo and KuKu #3 (also known as Adirondack KuKu, created by James). This year we were lucky to have one of our Soma Beats dancers, Shir Filler, make an appearance! She encouraged others in the audience to let loose and get groovy with the rhythms! Shir and Karen also performed the dance Djole, created by Soma Beats founder, Johnna MacDougall, who was not able to attend. Video to follow! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

What Ryhthms to Practice this Week!

This week, James made up a new rhythm based on Kuku Dununs and two accompaniments from the Kuku/Kukukase family. The first accompaniment is half of "Santa Maria": S SS STT/ S SS STT /S SS STT R LR LRL and the second accompaniment is the one Karen usually plays for Kukukase: TT S TTS/ TT S TTS/ TT S TTS RL R LRL We also worked on Konkoba in Sunday and for practice, we worked in Maraka Don and Soli Des Manian (with Dununs). ATTENTION: Memorial Sunday's class will have fewer people and will be at James and Karen's house in Lake Placid at 7PM. T - tone S - slap R - right hand L - left hand

Saturday, May 17, 2008

How Drumming Teaches Us About Ourselves

Today, as James was teaching the residents at a local rehab center, as part of their curriculum, I was amazed to witness how "telling" the drum is to a person's personality. Many of the residents were scheduled to show up for drumming, having no inherent interest in drums or music for that matter. But there was definitely a curiosity. In past groups, some participants had expressed fear of having "no rhythm", putting themselves down even before they started. Other's said nothing, their faces a little fearful. Maybe a few were even thinking, "what are we doing here?", and yet others were like, "Cool!"

Just like when James teaches kids, they all eventually can't help themselves and they just HAVE to hit the drum! Everyone's willingness to try something they weren't familiar with gave us a clue as to how comfortable they were with being out of their comfort zone in their "real" lives outside the classroom. Although St. Joe's residents are particularly talented in music (even though they don't know they are) and maybe somehow that is connected to their past history of chemical dependency, quite a few are very critical of themselves when they make a mistake. Wow, I thought, why would they EXPECT to be perfect at something new? But I once was like that too. And I was very unhappy back then. Once in a while, I wonder if they want to give up. But because of peer pressure, no one does. How easily do they give up on something "good" in their lives without peer support I wonder? Drumming is a wonderful analogy to life. Here's more:

I also noticed some who were quite quick to learn the rhythm and yet were so quiet in their drum playing that they could not help "lead" their companions to stay on track. So I surmise that in their everyday life, they are too timid to make an impact in other people's lives although they have the talent for it. Other's didn't seem to notice when they were off-time at all and kept playing oblivious to those around them. Possibly, they are often "out of sync" with others in their lives not paying attention to those important connections that could make their lives happier and healthier. Once they get comfortable with one rhythm, we add another, thus stretching them again beyond their comfort zones. While they are playing well, James will suddenly add another accompaniment. Most will fall off their own s=rhythm at first. How often does that happen to us in our relationships? We get used to being "alone" and then in relationship, we "lose" our own rhythm. The drum teaches us to play our own tune (individuation) yet be aware of others and to harmonize with others. It is not so easy. But by the end of the class, they are all playing in harmony - maybe for just a few minutes - but so much more than at the beginning of the class. The best part of drumming class is watching each new student bloom and begin to really get into the rhythm and enjoy themselves. We welcome mistakes and tell them it is natural. It helps them get more comfortable making mistakes. Many walk away with new-found confidence and big smiles, saying, "Hey, that was fun! Thank you so much!" Karen

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wulaba Plays for Capoeira Batizado

Wulaba had the honor of playing for the students of North Country School tonight at the 4th annual Capoeira Batizado celebration. Several students from North Country received their "baptism" from the Mestrando Peninha, the Capoiera martial arts professor, originally from Brazil andwho now resides in Montreal. Johnna MacDougall led sixty students in African dance...the roots of the martial arts Capoeira, starting with movements in the feet and then growing the movements larger until they encompassed the entire body. James and Karen both received their next "cord" at the Batizado elevating them to a new level of practice in the art.

Wulaba & Soma Beats Perform at North Country Community College Talent Show

On April 17th, 2008, we had the grand opportunity to perform with our newly seasoned Soma Beats dancers, led by Johnna MacDougall. What a blast it was! Johnna did her Bird Dance solo to Gidamba and then the Soma Beats dancers took to the floor for their rendition of Djole. Lou, our only male dancer, said that he is really inspired by the drumming and he loves to dance! One of our newest dancers, Shir, a college professor, just joined on a few weeks ago and already is one of our performers! Most of our other dancers have had experience in dance or yoga and in fact, Mimi Frantz, a local yoga professional choreographed James and Karen's gold winning skating program at the Adult National figure skating championships this month. Watch our video!