Marie's Blog

Kings Head Music Festival 9th June 2012 - Fantastic! 

Well, despite the weather the Kings Head Music Festival was a resounding success again this year!

The Kings Head is a fabulous old pub with a warm atmosphere, great food, fine ales, super friendly staff and is run by a wonderful musician manager called Ben Ward.

Ben has been playing saxophone from a very early age and went on to teach it before taking on the huge responsibility of running the Kings Head. He plays in a fabulous band of superb local talent called Rough Twist who have a massive following.

Ben's passion for promoting live music at the Kings Head has seen the pub host some amazing evenings of exceptionally talented bands but the icing on the cake is the annual music festival held in the car park of the pub.
A huge lorry is brought in to act as a stage, outside bar and catering set up and a showcase of local talent is rounded up. The end result is a fantastic day and evening of wonderful music and superb atmosphere.

I was thrilled that Kontaani were asked to play - especially as this year we had put together a performance troupe of players who are all striving to become advanced players and have been practising hard and learning new rhythms over the past few months.

Unfortunately only 6 out of 11 players could make it but we decided to go ahead - this proved to be a blessing as the 6 of us only just fit under the awning provided to shelter us from the rain - if all 11 had turned up we would not have been able to play in such awful weather.
As it was - half way through one of the numbers our Chris got a soaking from a puddle which had formed on the awning dropping down his neck which caused much merriment amongst the rest of the band!
The audience were also huddled under gazebo's and umbrellas but this did not dampen their spirit! They were out for a good time and it showed!

Kontaani played 2 short sets during the day and were really well received. We got great applause and cheers from the crowd. It was great to get Samba John up to play with us too - he was such a good sport dropping in with no prior experience of the number - and he was FAB!

Unfortunately I didn't stay late into the evening but the musicians and groups which I did manage to see were absolutely awesome and I totally loved the Samba Band with whom some of Kontaani joined in.

A massive thank you to Ben, Dewi, Pete, the staff and all the musicians who pull together to make the Kings Head Music Festival such a wonderful event.
I can't wait till next year and hope to be asked back again - by then we should be even better than ever!

Kontaani Drumming Weekend Camp.........amazing! 

I don't know where to start!
What an amazing weekend - I keep welling up at all the wonderful memories of our truly gorgeous time at Stanley Head Outdoor Education Center.
I am exhausted, swollen with the heat, have sore hands, sunburnt skin, broken tooth but my goodness was it all worthwhile - oh yeah! You bet your goddam ass it was!
A weekend full of smiles, laughter, friendship, camerarderie, drumming, snoring, drinking, dancing, superb music, firelit drumming, high wire walking, archery, drumming workshops, jamming sessions, singing, performances by the masters, more drumming and yet more drumming!

Friday afternoon we were busy showing people to their bunk rooms, putting up tents and generally familiarising ourselves with the superb venue Stanley Head. Set in 30 acres of woodland, rolling fields and with it's own lake - it was a truly perfect magical setting.
Our first drumming session late afternoon was a 'welcome' all invited workshop led by our wonderful tutors Jamie, Beej and Tess of Drumroots
This was pitched at all levels of drummers and was very informal and great fun. Even the most nervous novice was made to feel included and valued in the circle of drummers. Jamie has a wonderful knack of putting people at ease.

After a meal together provided by the centre we congregated around the camp fire for some freestyle drumming, drinking and much merriment. Friendships were forged, jokes told and memories made.

After just 4 hours sleep I was up again with hangover intact, for a full day of excitement. Full English breakfast hit the spot and we wandered down to the shady trees for the first of the day's workshop. I was thrilled to be asked to play the dunduns with Jamie, Beej and Tess during the workshop despite my banging head!
Beej led a wonderful one and a half hours of superb drumming. This group consisted of complete beginners and players with limited experience but it was challenging to all. In such a short space of time Beej had the whole group playing a complete piece from start to finish - I for one was elated! Hangover drummed into submission - I felt fantastic and energised afterwards. The smiles all around confirmed that I was not the only one!

During this workshop the more experienced players took time out to experience the high ropes or archery activities. I must admit to being distracted on several occasions by Dee, wearing a hard hat, hundreds of feet up in the air clinging around a telegraph pole for dear life and hearing Ricci shreek and scream as he jumped off a pulpit and slid down a zip wire! I was too scared to have a go at this but took great pleasure in hearing the excited and frightend screams from those who did!

After a packed lunch again provided by the centre the afternoons workshops commenced.
The more advanced workshop was held in one of the centres classrooms - led by Jamie and Beej while Tess and I led a ladies only drum circle down amongst the trees.
Everyone who attended the advanced class said it was challenging and wonderful as is the norm with Drumroots - every class I have attended in the past has been amazing.
Tess and I led a very laid back group of ladies into a chilled out session - this time with Tess forged our friendship as we giggled and bonded - no pressure, just relaxed freestyle drumming.

Everyone then had a few hours off to enjoy the sunshine, explore the site, sit by the lake or like me - head off to bed for a power nap! Whilst lying in my bunk drifting in and out of sleep I could hear the wonderful sound of Debs and a few others jamming together in the copse of trees down at the bottom of the camping field - it sounded amazing and I drifted off with a smile on my face.
Craig had brought a guitar along and young Piers was playing it brilliantly with Craig accompanying him on djembe and mouth organ!

After a communial meal of chilli and baked potatoes we got ready for the evening performances and party.
Chris had set up the most amazing music system under the tree's by the camp fire and when I arrived at the site Bob Marley was pumping out over the meadow, chief fire officer Paul was setting the fire ready for later and Jane was setting candles, fairy lights and lanterns around the area. I took a sharp intake of breath at the beauty of it all.

Some of the staff of the centre joined us for our party which was wonderful! They had listened to the drumming whilst working during the day and had even joined in with some of the groups inbetween facilitating the high ropes etc and were hooked!

My Kontaani performance troupe kicked off the entertainment with our set based on the history of Kontaani. We started with the very first number we had all learned and went through the numbers in order of time, ending with the most recent one taught to by our personal tutors Jamie and Beej. We all had a wonderful time and it was quite surreal to see members of Tanante, Iya Sako and Sens Segna in our audience! Talk about nervous????? The nerves subsided when people got up to dance and we realise everyone was actually enjoying it. I was overjoyed to hear that Iya had called out "Soli Woullen!" as we kicked in to our penultimate number - yes he recognised it even if we had put our own Kontaani slant on it! After raptuous applause and calls for "more" we had a short break and Tanante, Iya and Sens took to the floor......WOW! this was what everyone was waiting for - to see the masters in action. They played for a solid hour by what was then a roaring camp fire. I don't think there was one person sat down by the end of the set - we were singing, dancing, skipping round the fire and generally lapping up every morsal of this gourmet drumming feast! FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC!
Oh my goodness - I have always been in awe of these guys and never in a million years would I ever have envisaged them playing for us at our own Kontaani private party but it happened! I keep pinching myself - I can't believe it. Some spectacular dancing was done by Dee enticing Sens ha ha!
After ensuring Tanante knew where the buffet had been put out for them I left everyone to carry on the party and fell into an exhausted sleep whilst listening to the mayhem with a massive drunken smile on my face.

Sunday morning came too quickly but I woke refreshed and happy that months of hard work and planning had prooved so worthwhile - we were having a ball!
I made a pot of fresh coffee and joined Sens and a group of other early risers by the pond, watching the ducks and laughing loudly at Jane and Shell's recollection of the previous evenings antics - Shell referring to the spinning lit up poi asked - "what are those balls called" the answer came - "testicles" at which we almost fell over laughing!

After another good full english breakfast we all got together for our 'farewell' jamming session with all of Tanante (who had stayed over with us), Iya and Sens.
I was almost bursting with pride as I looked around the circle at the smiles and grins from the particpants, happy and relaxed playing along, side by side with such master drummers.

It was finaly time to say goodbye and I am crying now writing this - the hugs, kisses and love amongst people, some of whom were complete strangers on Friday and were now firm friends was a joy to see. The comments from everyone about what an amazing time they had had was overwhelming.
One person in particular (you know who you are) made me sob uncontrollably when he said "thank you, you have changed my life - I was in a bad place till I met you, now I live for my drumming and Kontaani" Powerful stuff. Another lady said she had been made to feel part of a very special family.

The pressure is on to make this an anual event - next time I won't be anywhere near as worried about it being a success - the people will make it work, there is not one bad apple in the Kontaani fruit bowl, just lots of wonderful souls from all walks of life with one common bond - drumming - but my goodness is that bond huge!

Thank you everyone from the bottom of my heart!
Marie xxx

What's been happening in the Kontaani camp? 

Wow I can't believe I have not written my blog since December and it's May in two day's time!
Time is flying by.

Well a lot has been happening at Kontaani over the past few months.
I made the decision to merge the Kumaasi (beginners) and Tawuntee (intermediate) groups together on Wednesday's. The Tawuntee group had previously rehearsed and played with the advanced performance troupe on Thursdays but I found when we were rehearsing hard for up and coming gigs the Tawuntee members were being left behind. We had also incorporated some numbers the Tawuntee crew had not learned. It seemed unfair for them to be sitting around waiting for chance to drum while we battled it out to get the set ready for gigs.
This proved to be the right decision. Wednesdays are much more laid back and geared towards having fun and leaning with no pressure. The performance troupe have now really stepped up a gear and are extremely focussed. We are getting our noses firmly into rehearsing hard and learning some quite complex stuff.

Three of the members of our advanced performance troupe have recently taken 6 weeks out to attend a Drumroots course in Manchester. The course culminated in a performance at the Zion Arts Center last Friday night. I went along to watch them and 15 other students perform the 3 numbers they had learnt in 6 weeks.  To be honest I thought this was a tall order to have learnt 3 numbers from scratch in just 6 weeks. However, I was extremely and pleasantly suprised - it was fantastic! The performance was amazing! Well done to Kontaani's Miriam, Ricci and Alisdair! You were all fantastic. The whole evening was brilliant as we were treated to a performance by my hero's Tanante with Sens Segna leading the dancing. Fantastic evening and it was fab to catch up with old drum buddies too. Our famous 3 are now back in the Kontaani fold and I'm certain are more confident, more experienced and better qualified drummers because of it. I sat there actually feeling so proud and emotional watching their performance - great stuff!

Our performance troupe played our latest complex number for the first time in public today at a gig at the Jervis Arms Blues, Roots, Folk and Beer festival in Onecote, Staffordshire.
After only learning this piece over the past two weeks we played it absolutely perfectly and I was thrilled.
Considering some of us had stayed out far too late last night and were nursing mamouth hangovers (no names mentioned but you know who you are, and so do I as I was with you!) we played a fabulous set and received rousing cheers and applause from the wonderful audience who were mostly made up of musicians. Praise indeed!
After battling through the most atrocious weather. we were grateful to find that the festival had thankfully been moved in to the pub instead of the marquee in the grounds as planned. It was such a shame for those who had made arrangements to camp over the weekend. Hopefully the weather will be kinder next year and we would be very honored to be asked back again to hopefully play on the grass by the riverside in blistering sunshine should the sun god see fit!

Our last gig was at Kontaani Janey Dewar's 50th Birthday Bash at the Jolly Sailor in Macc. Only 6 of us were free to do the gig but we went down a storm. The venue was packed to the rafters - great pub by the way, I made a mental note to go back there for a drink when next in Macc. After playing our set we got members of the Wednesday group who were guests at the party, up to play with us on a number they all knew, thus swelling the number of drummers and almost bringing the ceiling down with the sheer volume! We had a fabulous night and once again received rousing appreciation from the audience. It was an honor to play for Janey's birthday - she is a much loved member of the team.

Prior to that we drummed at Langley Chapel for the 'Womens World Day of Prayer'. This is an anual event is held world wide on the same day. A different country hosts the event and writes the service for all to follow. This year it was Malaysia who had stipulated that drummers should open the service if possible. We were very honored to be asked to play in the Chapel in the very village where Kontaani was born and still has it's headquarters.
Our short but powerful set was well received by the congregation (except for the lady at the back who's face looked horrified as she held her fingers firmly in her ears!) and we received raptuous applause!

Our outdoor gig at Macclesfield Fair Trade Fortnight in the market place in Macclesfield in March proved a great success. We were invited to play to raise awareness of a cause close to our hearts - Fair Trade. The wonderful organisers had ensured we had a huge gazeebo should the rain fall but we were very lucky!  We attracted a huge crowd who seemed to really enjoy the break in their shopping to listen to some great drumming from our advanced performance troupe. We were treated by a visit from the mayor and mayoress of Macclesfield who were such good sports they each took a drum and joined in with us! It was a fabulous day - the photos of which are here on the website.

We are very much looking forward to a very busy May - We are playing every weekend starting with a wedding next  Saturday followed by Kontaani Pete's 50th in a Brewery the week after (yes a Brewery!!!! Yippee, it's gonna get messy! especially as we are to wear leather and lace - raunchy or what?) and then the week after sees the very first Kontaani Drum Camp -

Our Drum Camp is the result of hours and hours of planning, negotiating and hard work but it will be so worth it. The setting for the camp is the lovely Stanley Head Outdoor Education centre in Staffordshire.
The Centre was originally an old farm set in 30 acres of woodland and countryside with a lake in the grounds to boot!
As well as drumming workshops throughout the weekend, drumming round a camp fire in the woods on Friday evening, archery, a high wire experience, Saturday night party and craft market etc. we are thrilled to have our great friends Tanante with special guest the well respected djembefola and wonderful tutor Iya Sako to perform for us at our party.
All of this will culminate in a farewell freestyle drumming 'jam' for all on Sunday.
I'm starting to get extremely excited about this event, if all goes well it could become an annual thing. It's the first time the Centre has accepted such a diverse clientelle - they normally have school children staying with them for outdoor persuits etc. Lets hope we leave them wanting more!

June brings with it an invitation to play in the bandstand in Victoria park, Macclesfield. Lets all do a sun dance that day please!

Midsummer Solstice this year will be especially poignant - our beloved solstice baby is turning 18. No doubt the drums will be sounding out that evening, as is usual during our annual party at the bottom of the garden by the river.
The following day is Langley Fete! A hair of the dog will steady the hands ready to play our sox's off at our wonderful village fete. Something for everyone on this day and some fab bands from around 4pm onwards. Kontaani performance troupe are on first. This in aid of our wonderful village hall which also happens to be Kontaani headquarters - the place where all our lessons, practises, workshops and regular performances take place.

That brings us into July where we already have a gig pencilled in to play at a another Fete.

We are currently working on our performance outfits. Our purple tee shirts and sweatshirts are our trademark but we now feel it's time to go that bit more colorfull.  The Kontaani purple will be staying but we will introduce more of an African feel to our outfits. Of course it's hard to please everyone when we are all so diverse but slowly we are coming to an agreement about what we will wear at the summer gigs with variations on a theme to suit all shapes and sizes!

Oooh such a wonderful Summer is opening up for Kontaani and once again I feel so proud and honored to play along side such wonderful people. There have been over 40 drummers since I started the group.  Most have absolutely loved it and been comming to classes for a couple of years, a couple tried it and decided drumming is not for them, 11 of us took to it like a duck to water and joined the advanced troupe to commit to study and play gigs at a higher level.
That's the beauty of Kontaani - everyone is made to feel welcome and encouraged regardless of ability.  Kontaani is one big family and Kontaani translates as 'Happy' in the African language of Mandinka. Therfore we are one big happy family. Long may it continue!

Lots of love
Marie x

Sutton On Stage 

Sutton on Stage is an event held every two years at the Scout Hut in Sutton in aid of the Scouts and upkeep of the hut etc.
Kontaani were asked to perform at the event on Friday 25th November.

What an amazing venue! I can't believe I have never been in it before when I live so close. It's fabulous - holds 400 people with a massive stage and excellent facilites.
Kontaani played a blistering performance amongst many other acts from the local area.
The evening was hosted by Vic Barlow of the Express newspapers who commented that he thought Kontaani were fabulous!

The highlight of the evening for me was when George Barowski (famous singer and musician) said he thought we were amazing and wants us to play at his house! ha ha! Do the neighbours know about this George?

I would like to say a massive thank you to Taffy and all involved in the organisation of the event which runs over two evenings.
It was fabulous - we had a wonderful time.
On behalf of Kontaani - thank you so much for inviting us to play and I hope we will be asked back again in two years time!


Kontaani Performance and End of Season Party - a great success! 

Our Kontaani Performance for family and friends and end of season party took place on Saturday 26th November.
What a great night was had by all!

We opened to a full house with the beginners group performance, most of whom had only been playing together since September, some joined more recently.
They played a wonderful version of Kuku and Yankadi to rousing cheers of "more" from the audience. They were all fabulous and I think every single one of them enjoyed every single minute judging by the smiles at the end.

After a short break the intermediate and advanced groups took to the stage together to perform a full set including Djole, Sinta, Yankadi, Kuku, Zaikou and ending with our newest number Soli Woullen. We were nervous playing Soli Woullen as we have only really had a couple weeks training on it but we played it beautifully!
The cheers and chants for more, coupled with people taking to the floor to dance encouraged us to play it again!

Then it was time to present the Kontaani Special Award. This went to Piers Jarvis, our youngest member for his commitment, talent and enthusiasm for playing with Kontaani since the beginning. A very well deserved recipient! Well done Piers! He received an engraved trophy to keep.

The raffle prizes were fabulous from chocolates, champagne,  2 hour tuition, glasses etc. up to a full size djembe drum. The raffle brought in much needed funds for our new drums.

A massive thank you to the beginners group who presented me with the most beautiful bouquet of flowers - they are lovely and very much appreciated!
And then again I was blown away by the gift of a pampering voucher from the intermediate group! How wonderful of you all - again I was speechless.

The evening continued with a disco for those who still had enough energy to throw some shapes on the dance floor.

Well done to all of you - you played a blistering performance! I was still reeling days later.

The one thing that hit's home is what a beautiful bunch of people Kontaani are! I'm so very proud to drum with you all.
Here's to the next performance and party! Yipeee!

Autumn and Winter - time for learning 

As we move into the wonderful, colourful season of Autumn I've been reflecting on the fabulous Spring and Summer I have had with Kontaani.
So many fabulous people have come together with one common bond - African Drumming!
Folk from all walks of life, all religions, all ages, sit down together each week simply to drum.

February saw the arrival into the UK of our friend and tutor Mobe (Diane's husband) from Guinea Conakry. Mobe and Diane are a wonderful partnership who are a joy to have as our tutors. It's fabulous to hear that their own professional Drum and Dance troupe - Wassasou are unfolding - can't wait for their first performance!

I have had an amazing few months playing with semi-professional performance troupe Kamara under the tuition and guidance of my old friend and tutor David Woolley. I have learnt so much from David, he was my first mentor and tutor when I began my love affair with West African drumming.
My decision to leave Kamara in order to put all my energies into developing Kontaani and advancing my own skills was a really difficult one, but I was being torn between practising for Kamara and working on developing Kontaani - I couldn't put enough energy and commitment into both AND hold down a demanding full time job AND spend time with my family. Something had to give.
I really miss playing with Kamara.

Kontaani is going from strength to strength and after a period of enjoying getting out and about doing various gigs in and around the local area, we are using the Autumn and Winter time to train, practise, enhance our existing numbers with more complex rhythms and introduce brand new numbers to our repertoire.
We will emerge next Spring as stronger, more confident players who 'kick ass' (as our musician friend Maisie Johnson described our playing!).

As well as the original line up of the Kontaani Troupe I have introduced the Wednesday beginners class. Members from this class can aspire towards joining the main troupe or just continue to enjoy getting together for an evening of noisy frolics, as is usually the case!

I have also invited a few of the more advanced players, who put their heart and soul into drumming, to form the Kontaani advanced group.
I'm very excited about this group - we will train hard to a much higher level, not only to improve the overall sound of the main Kontaani troupe, but also to create a separate performance troupe in order to play gigs on a more professional level.

My decision to have private lessons with Jamie Riley of Drumroots in order to build on my own existing skills, not only as a player, but to enhance my knowledge in order to teach beginners, has been totally the right decision. Jamie's laid back, supportive and encouraging teaching methods are like having a meditation lesson from the Dalai Lama!
I leave the lesson uplifted and encouraged and fully charged with the thirst to get better and better!

I'm not feeling depressed about the onset of the Autumn and Winter months - I'm looking forward to using the time to progress and emerge out the other side more confident and a better drummer - ready for a summer of fun and gigs with my fellow drum buddies.

Happy Mabon everyone!
Marie x

Church House Cider, Beer and Music Festival 

Well done to Kontaani - well played!

It was touch and go with the weather on Saturday and as we couldn't all fit on the stage we were at the mercy of the elements.
During a break in the drizzle we decided to go for it and risk playing before the next down pour.
We were so lucky, we set up fast in amongst the audience and played 5 numbers which were very well received!  We ended on a high and much to our delight, to raucous applause and requests for 'more'!
Our colourful backdrop was the end of a huge rainbow which appeared while we were playing - beautiful!

We did have one criticism - we didn't play for long enough! Can't be bad if thats the only one!

We went down a storm and have been asked to do another local gig next year by which time we will be even better and have more rhythms in our repertoire.

The other bands were superb and I for one had a fabulous time throwing some mad shapes on the car park dance floor - just hope the tarmac is still intact!

Thank you to Sheila and Karen for inviting us to play and to a wonderful encouraging audience - we had a great night!
Marie x

Kontaani Advanced Troupe! 

Kontaani are presently forming a troupe of drummers who are already at an intermediate level who wish to further their drumming skills to an advanced level.

This group will require complete commitment, enthusiasm and a thirst to progress to a higher level of drumming expertise.

The group will endeavour to enhance the main Kontaani troupe creating a more overall professional sound.
Training separately every two to three weeks and then taking back and sharing that knowledge with the rest of the group on Thursday evenings.

We invite and welcome interest in this group from both existing Kontaani members and intermediate to advanced level drummers outside of the present group.

For more info please contact Marie on 07525817368 or email

Kontaani Beginners Group - Great Success! 

The new beginners class is into it's fourth week and growing stronger and more popular.

A huge welcome to newcommers Shell, Karen, Jane, Jane, Alisdair, Mike, Gill, Mae, Margie, Heather, Pete, Andrew, Chris and Roy - you are all a joy to drum with!

The decision to hold a class specifically for people new to drumming, separate from the main group, in order to concentrate on the basics was definitely the right thing to do.

What a fabulous bunch of folk. It's great to see such beaming smiles and to hear the giggles and laughter during the evening. These classes are very laid back and set in a relaxed, supportive and friendly atmosphere.

It's early days but the group are already beginning to build confidence and experience the wonderful feeling which happens when a group of people sit down and create amazing sounds together.

The classes are often attended by members of the main Kontaani group who enjoy just going back to basics and helping and supporting our new drum buddies!

Really looking forward to next Wednesday!