Monday 17 June 2019

African courting song changed my life

Singing is outside Pat Fitzpatrick's comfort zone. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.
Singing is outside Pat Fitzpatrick's comfort zone. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.

Pat Fitzpatrick

I'm standing with some strangers in a small room above Cornmarket Street in Cork. I chant out something in an African language; they respond. This is actually happening to me. It isn't a nightmare. And I can't stop smiling.

There was no mention of singing when I signed up for the African drumming classes. That's just as well. I was asked to opt out of a sing-song at a party in Miltown Malbay once because I was ruining it for everyone else. So singing is out of my comfort zone, and then some.

But 30 minutes into the first class, here I am belting out a West African courting ritual at the top of my voice. Why? Because something changed once I started playing the drums.

We use the djembe drum, which you rest between your legs. So already I felt a bit foolish for calling it a bongo in last week's column, and posing with it under my arm (the bongo is Cuban.)

After 10 minutes of drumming, I felt that I might be wasting my time. I couldn't get work and life out of my mind, and, to be honest, my hands were starting to hurt. And then it happened.

I closed my eyes and listened to the beat. Suddenly, I was playing with a slight flourish. A generous person might say I was nearly playing in time with everyone else.

I enjoyed a slight euphoria, which stayed with me for hours after the class. I can't wait for the next one.

TIP: If you're planning a trip outside your comfort zone, don't go too far. I was thinking of doing ice-skating, but with my sense of balance, that would have been a pain in the ass. Literally.

When choosing something new, you'll need an inkling that it's going to work. I've always liked music and I have a passable sense of rhythm. So far, so good. I'm suddenly the kind of person who will sing to a group of strangers.

And if I ever find myself in West Africa, I know a song that might get me a wife.

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