Tuesday 23 July 2019

Bracing for my first bash at bongo face

Pat Fitzpatrick aims to overcome a fretful fear of African Drumming in his search for peace and quiet

Beat it: Pat's in search of his lost sense of wonder. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.
Beat it: Pat's in search of his lost sense of wonder. Photo: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision.

I tried to get away with yoga. When the editor sent out the call to get out of our comfort zone, I was straight back suggesting I do stretches for an hour with my eyes closed. This is so far inside my comfort zone that I am planning to start a yoga class in the next few weeks. The editor was having none of it. She said, "have you considered African Drumming?"

I try to avoid considering African Drumming, unless I want to torture myself. Sitting around in a circle of World Music enthusiasts, bashing away at some drum in the hope of connecting with another culture, now that's actually terrifying. It isn't really the drums that bother me. I like a bit of bongo. What I don't like is the look on people's face when they are playing one. You know, bongo face. The dopey grin, the eyes closed, swaying from side to side, this isn't a good look on me, even when I'm drunk. And now I'm going to do it sober with a pack of strangers.

I'm going to do African Drumming in Cork city for the next four weeks. The affable guy running it, Patrick Naughton, sent me a link to a video showing what goes on in the class. This confirmed my worst fears. A group of white people sitting around in a circle with foolish grins on their faces. It was like a student party, but with drums.

Then they interviewed the people in the class. This is where it got ­interesting. Nobody talked about getting in touch with their inner-African. Nobody said it was the most important thing in their life. Nobody mentioned crystals or angels or other tell-tale signs of rampant hippyness.

They all just said it was a great way to clear your head and relax after a day's work. Now we're talking (or drumming). We have two small kids and a hectic work-life roster here in our house. It's hard to find a space in the day when you're not thinking either about a deadline or taking a batch of spag bol out of the freezer. I had to give up jogging recently when my back said you must be joking, pound

ing the pavements at your age. I need to get back out there, out of my head.

I'm not just looking for relaxation. I need my sense of wonder back. There was a time when I was always up to trying some- thing new. Now I'm like Victor Mel drew with a

hangover, dismissing anything that isn't tried and tested. That's not a good look, unless I want to appear 48-going-on-78. Which I don't.

I've had good experiences with rhythm in the past. I was that ageing raver on the dancefloor 20 years ago, off his head on little more than the music and the lights. I know the lift you can get from a room full of like-minded strangers and a seductive beat. It would be great to experience that again, without the two-day hangover.

So bring out the bongos. The first class is Thursday, I'll let you know how it went next week.

I'm going to give it my all for a month, and see if a trip outside my comfort zone can roll back the years and reduce anxiety levels through the dog-dark days of November. Who knows, I might even crack a smile.


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