White Girl, No Rhythm
Jane Cloete, December 2002
It began as a dare. ‘You have rhythm. I can prove it.’ Catherine Welsh founder of Drumming SA made the challenge. My pleas of ‘white girl, no rhythm,’ only goaded her more. ‘I’ll see you on Tuesday – and be prepared for a life-changing experience,’ she grinned.
was convinced I’d be drumming with bath-fearing hippies in a smoky, narcotic
den. So as I sat, djembe between my legs and a dubious expression on my face, I
was almost disappointed to find myself in a bright, airy room, between a young
primary school teacher and a 50-plus accountant.
know there are a couple of you here today who are convinced you have no
rhythm,’ began Catherine, ‘but I promise that it is intrinsically within
each of us. We spend months listening to the dum dum of our mother’s
heart beat, so by the time you are born, this natural rhythm is imprinted in
your nervous system. The problem with our
society is that we are almost totally removed from our natural rhythms: in our
high- stress and high-tech lives we are constantly bombarded by artificial
rhythms – from mobile phones, TVs, microwaves etcetera.
can I get in touch with that rhythm again? I’m the one with the two
left feet and the paint-peeling singing abilities. According to Catherine, you
just have to give yourself permission to let go. This is a good time to mention
that I am a control freak. Letting go is not a specialty.
started with a series of simple West African rhythms and rapidly progressed to
more complicated pieces. I couldn’t believe how quickly the rhythms became
easy, and as the day progressed I could actually feel a shift in my body. Or in
my head really. The moment that I stopped counting in my head and allowed my
body to take over, the ‘1,2,3’ or ‘left, left, right’, became ‘dum,
dum, thwack’. We were making music. Grins were shot across the room as the
newbies got the difficult rhythm right and sympathetic grimaces when you lost
the beat. It didn’t seem to matter if this was your first or 40th drumming
experience; we were all just having fun. A lot of it at that.
much as I loathe being proven wrong, Catherine showed me, the school teacher,
the accountant and the rest of the motley crew that made up that workshop, that
drumming transcends all boundaries – even those created by white girls with no
Copyright © 2002