I just blinked and it's 2016!

Wow where has the time gone? Life is hurtling past at such a fast pace.

So much time has passed since my last blog.

My beloved father passed away on 28th December 2014 after 6 weeks in hospital.  I couldn't go to work during his illness, I spent every day with my Mum and Sister by his side as much as possible. We had a strange christmas spent between the hospital and trying to pull some sort of family christmas dinner together.  It was a terrible sad time.
He was 93 and very much loved by all of us. I thought he would live forever.  I don't think I will ever get over the loss.
He and Mum bought me my first djembe - Billy - named after my dad. Many of my drumming buddies came to his funeral.
I cancelled the Kontaani Christmas Party and Performance as my heart was not in it and I didn't have the energy or the enthusiasm to plan it.

Dealing with the funeral was one thing, but caring for our lovely Mum who has alzheimers and had just lost the love of her life took it's toll on me.
It was tearing me apart watching her refuse to be away from Dad's ashes. She no longer leaves the house - she just want's to be with her 'Billy'.
I made my mind up to cancel this year's Kontaani Drumfest to give myself time to adjust to looking after Mum while I still have quality time with her. The work and amount of hours involved in running Drumfest are huge and as soon as I decided to cancel the weight lifted from my shoulders.  Hopefully Drumfest 2017 will be back better than ever.
In the mean time I plan to hold a couple of small residential drumming weekends at Stanley Head this year just for the Kukua group and the band.

The following weeks went by in a blur - the band were training with Sidiki for the Brothers Tour and I tried to throw myself into rehearsals with a heavy grieving heart.
Somehow I managed to keep up and the Brothers Tour performance was fabulous.  I have just put some of the wonderful photo's onto the Gallery page. Big thanks to Simon Brown (Travelling Simon) for taking them.

After the wonderful 'high' of the Brothers Tour there have been a few changes within the band.

Jane, one of the original 4 founding members and a dear close friend for many years, made the sad and heart wrenching decision to leave the band.
With 2 teenage boys coming up to important exams combined with her busy work life, she was finding it more and more difficult to dedicate regular time to rehearsals and gigs.  A very sad time indeed but I have no doubt that she will be back when the time is right. We still see her socially and as her partner Chris still plays with us we still see her along at gigs which is weird seeing her in the audience instead of up on stage with us.

Prior to Jane leaving I had been looking for a competent dundun player to start to rehearse with us in order to pick up various parts. This person was not to be a member of the band but to train as a sort of substitute if one of our dundun players could not make a gig.
The idea was to 'shadow' each of the dun players in rehearsals and work hard to be able to step in as and when needed.

The person was actually right under my nose - in the Wednesday Kukua class.
Lisa Swindells was showing real promise as a dun player and an overwhelming enthusiasm for drumming in general.
I was always singling her out to play duns as she picked up the rhythms so quickly. Such promising talent!

In June 2015 we were invited to play a Brothers Tour gig in Manchester with Sidiki and Tanante. We were dun players short so I asked Lisa to slot in.  This was quite a big gig for someone relatively new to performing but It proved to be totally the right decision. She was awesome and not only rose to the challenge -  she smashed it.
Lisa more than proved herself and after consulting with the rest of the band, who were all totally in favour, I invited Lisa to officially join Kontaani.

Her enthusiasm is as infectious as her laugh and she brings much fun and laughter into the tribe - she is already a much loved member of the Kontaani family.

We had a month off in December and started 2016 with renewed enthusiasm and fresh ideas of how to take the band forward.
We are working on putting together a varied set, changing some of our numbers and adding our own personal twist on some.  Rehearsals had become a bit of a social gathering and a natter instead of the usual hard playing! 
As the gigs started to come in for the year ahead - I decided that I needed a right hand man/woman to help with the running of the band and to assist in keeping everyone focussed.  Before I had chance to choose someone - he reared up and bit me on the ankle - taking control of the rehearsal time and re-arranging the way we rehearse.  Alistair is now my co-pilot!  'Braveheart', as we affectionately call him, spares no prisoners and adds a gentle firmness to proceedings, thus getting the most out of our 2 hour rehearsal time on a Thursday evening. He certainly keeps me on my toes to say the least!

So as we hurtle towards the summer, I'm really starting to look forward to some funky new stuff coming out of Kontaani and some great performances! 

The Kukua Wednesday group saw the arrival of half a dozen or so new folk.  Some of whom had attended my 'Introduction to Djembe' workshop at the end of last year.  It's so lovely to see the interaction between members who have been coming for years and complete newbies.
This is what makes me so very proud of this group - everyone is made welcome and hopefully anyone new soon feels like they are accepted and part of one big family. 
There is so much fun and laughter on Wednesday evenings, its a lovely warm and friendly gathering with a mix of freestyle drum circle (in which we raise energy and direct it to whoever or whatever we feel needs it) along with learning traditional structured rhythms.
The best story this year was when we all focussed on bringing Alison's cat Ozzy home after he had been missing for aprox 3 weeks.  We did a lovely drum circle directing the energy to helping Ozzy find his way home.
When I got home that night I had a wonderful message from Alison saying as she arrived back in Buxton Ozzy was on the doorstep.  You just couldn't make this stuff up! 

Some of our original drummers have moved on over the past 5 years that the Wednesday group have been going. People move away or move on to other more advanced classes or other interests take over. But I find there are always new people attracted to drumming. I never cease to love the obvious joy in someone's face when they find drumming for the first time. The complete euphoria when someone suddenly 'gets' the slap and tone correctly and the cheers of support from the rest of the group.
It seems just 5 minutes ago since that was me and then someone said to me recently - "do you think I will ever be as good as you?"  I was quite taken aback as I don't consider myself a good drummer - I don't teach because I think I am better than anyone else - I teach because I want to share this passion and grow a tribe of like minded souls.
No matter how good you become at anything, to stay humble is essential. No matter how good you are, there is always tonnes of room for improvement. I remember being so frustrated that I could never be as good as my own tutor. Then he told me how frustrated he gets that he is not as good as his mentor!

And on that note - I'm off to practice!
Bye for now 
Lots of love
Marie x


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