Drum up a djembe storm
Earthy, pulsating sounds from the djembe reverberate in your ears as you watch Pune-based drummer Varun Venkit play this West African instrument in a YouTube video. The ex-Agnee drummer is India’s only certified djembe professor by Tam Tam Mandingue — an international academy (with branches in over 12 countries) set up by the African djembe grandmaster Mamady Keita. Playing this instrument for five years now, he is also the founder of Pune-based Taal Inc (an organisation that conducts drum circles) and its band, Rhythm Ensemble, the only one in India to perform traditional Western Folk Music.
Today evening, Venkit will conduct a workshop in Mumbai to introduce djembe to music enthusiasts and also share its cultural connect with West Africa. “We will show a live demo of what a djembe ensemble sounds like and screen parts of Djembefola, a documentary on the life of Mamady Keita,” shares the percussionist, who fell in love with this instrument after watching the same documentary in 2009.
Varun Venkit plays the djembe
A to Z of Djembe
In shape of a goblet, the rope-tuned, skin-covered drum is to be played with bare hands. “What makes the instrument unique is the traditional style of playing it in an ensemble with other drummers (like dununs or bass drums) and its polyrhythmic feel. Learning its basic technique requires patience and practice,” informs Venkit, who used his existing knowledge of percussion to learn djembe rhythms and gave an exam before Keita in 2014.
Said to have originated during the Mali Empire rule in Africa in 1200s, djembe remains an integral part of West African culture. Venkit witnessed this first hand during his trip to the region as a part of his learning process. “Since the political situation in Guinea (Keita’s hometown) was not suitable then, I spent time with Mamady Keita in Senegal for a month. It is amazing to witness the djembe in its habitat and true spirit. There are rhythms for marriages, baptisms, initiation ceremonies, sacred rituals, to celebrate the full moon, to cleanse oneself and a village, etc,” he adds. Being a versatile instrument, it has also found place in many fusion concerts. “Currently, I am working with a few musicians to play traditional West African music in a contemporary Jazz Fusion style,” he concludes.
On: Today, 7 pm
At: The True School Of Music, Sun Mill Compound, Lower Parel.
Entry: Free (prior registration required)