Twenty six years ago I reconnected with my African drum teacher, mentor, and spiritual guide, Baba Olatunji. The first time I met him was when I was nine. His exciting music had shaped my early years. By the time the stars lined up so I could learn from him I was in my early forties.
My first class was 90 percent ego annihilation: I was horrible at drumming and dancing. (It is not easy to be a rhythmic retard.) The remaining 10 percent fueled my intent to learn to drum and dance~despite my shallow learning curve.
My excitement pushed me out of my safety zone. Enthralled by my new-found love, I began to organize drumming events. I wanted others to experience this joy. Arthur Hull, drum circle master, calls it “rhythmic evangelism”.
At first, I sent out invitations to small events..drum circles and solstice gatherings. I advertised by mail or posting flyers, phone or word of mouth…(Reminder:this was before internet or cell phones!)
I did the legwork myself, hanging flyers, calling friends… I explored ways to get people to attend things that I loved. I imagined we all wanted to connect– a village of like-minded people.
Later, I began to organize workshops and concerts for Baba. I knew that everyone I knew should meet this man, be in his presence.
I didn’t have a “look”, a graphic design, or a brand. I didn’t know how to create a good flyer, let alone distribute it. I invited people to these events the only way I knew how…pure excitement and joy. This was going to be the greatest party ever … why would you want to miss that? And guess what? People showed up.
If you build it they will come. I did and they did.
In my desire to share what I love, I discovered a true gift: unbridled enthusiasm!
When possessed with enthusiasm there is no ego/persona, just excitement and joy. I am not the “Zorina” who needs strokes or to be admired and loved. I am the one who has a bead on something that can change your life… if you let it… and now I would add, if it is the right fit for you.
This power and force which comes to me, through me, is fearless and irrepressible. I become a bigger entity than the sensitive, self-conscious person that I am at other times.
Enthusiasm has shaped my life. When I love something, there are no obstacles or resistance, no difficulty in achieving my goals. What I don’t know how to do something, I fake it until I make it happen. I have arranged for radio interviews, newspaper and magazine articles, cable television shows for my teachers (and for myself), and all because I believe and feel deeply that the things I am excited about will touch others.
When I am not in my enthusiasm I am a lot more cautious.
In 1996 I met an Austrian musician, Reinhard Flatischler. Reinhard had founded a body of rhythm work called TaKeTiNa. I took my first workshop and loved it. I did not have to” know “‘ anything, but felt rhythm directly in my body–stepping, clapping and singing. I could relax and cruise in the groove. I was hooked. My enthusiasm spoke to me and in a short time Reinhard and I agreed to work together to bring the TaKeTiNa Rhythm Teacher Training to the US .
I ended up organizing three 3-year intensive teacher trainings over twelve years. Huge commitments of time and energy and money went into creating each training. Because these were long-term projects, there were times I was doubting there would be a successful outcome.
Somehow, things worked out. The participants came for the training, and despite some trainees leaving, everything managed to work.
My enthusiasm to have this teaching style infect the US was bigger than all the doubts and fears that visited me during the twelve years.
In my own professional life, the door opened for me to teach drumming long before I was highly skilled. I was happy to be the one to have a torch to pass on — Baba’s lessons, other teachers’ lessons. I stayed within simple boundaries… I taught what I knew solidly.
Last winter, I celebrated my twentieth year of teaching drum and rhythm. Each class inspires me, urges me to include everyone, opens up different ways of breaking down the information — no matter what an individual’s skill level. Enthusiasm bypasses obstacles of age, gender, and nationality– which might appear as limitations to learning to drum later in life.
Once year we–my students and I–celebrate our love of drumming with a performance. This gathering is part ritual, part celebration, and part advertisement for the power and art of drumming. Lots of students take part–including some of my “graduated” students.
The rehearsal, the day before the event, is messy and chaotic. It doesn’t look or sound like much of a performance. Some folks forget their drum parts. Half the group look like deer in headlights. People ask the same questions because they never hear the answers. No one can tell how it will turn out, but most are doubtful that it will come together.
The next day, when we arrive, everyone is excited. The drummers dress up in flashy shirts and pants. They look colorful and festive. Our audience starts to arrive. The performers are nervously warming up–banging away, excited to get going.
We begin. Smiles and joy are visible on the musicians’ faces, and the energy is contagious. The audience gets up to dance. The performance flies by. We are no longer in linear time.We are enthusiastic. We are joy. The music is the vehicle for all of us to celebrate dancing, singing, clapping or just being there.
We are part of a transformative moment that changes the landscape of everyone who participates. And all because we show up. And play together. Create together.
When we finish, there is an alive vibrancy. The resonance of movement and sound are still in the room. Slowly, we pack up our instruments, dissolving the recital gathering. Something else lingers. What is this feeling in the air?
We started out as individuals. Through our process together, we became a group. We added a participating audience, sound and movement, song and dance. We then transformed into a village, celebrating our human life together. This good feeling remaining reminds us that we created something creative, immediate and wonderful. We did it together through joy, excitement, intention, and the superpower–enthusiasm.