It started with a breath. Om. Then a snap, snap. Om snap snap. It seemed easy, natural. We were given permission to have rhythm by the simple fact that we all breathe. People liked that. The audience breathed and snapped. And just when we all inhaled in unison, the drums came pounding through the aisle and up to the stage. The woman in front of me started grooving and as I looked around, people of all ages were moving to the rhythm. The trio on stage effortlessly moved through their call and response. They made scratching sounds and clicked their sticks in rhythms that captivated and enticed.
Then the white lights, the white robes, the white drums resting on purple pillows came to life as Zakir made the two small drums sound like strings, water drops, tap shoes and, yes, even a train. He made short sentences out of the taps and clicks and drops of his drums. The story? Come in; boom boom. Have a drink; dhug, dhug. Why are you late? Sit down over there; digga, digga, boom, dhug, tik, tik, tik. The audience roared with laughter. Suddenly everyone could hear the story the drums were telling.
Zakir had an unbelievable solo. He can make the drums make sounds I’ve never heard before. And the incredible amount of energy he put forth with those ten fingers to make more strokes per second than I can imagine was truly intense. Then came the ensemble and I wondered if he would play as intensely. No. Two violins and two drummers made for an entirely different movement; they watched each other, played off each other. The audience relaxed. There was a feeling of calm in this rhythm together.
We all have a rhythm in us. A rhythm to our lives. The lesson from the Masters seemed to teach that no particular beat is wrong. Every beat leads to the next and transition from one rhythm to the next is the only thing that really distinguishes them from running on forever. Like life, we can all have that solo of frenetic energy but we can’t keep it up forever. We breathe. We snap. We ticka, ticka, tap. And the most profound moments of our lives can be in the silent beat that transitions from one rhythm to the next.
Mary Panton is elephant’s new favorite human being of the week!