Tempo Changes the Energy
Tempo is one of the main ways to change the energy, and one of the easiest changes to orchstrate as the leader in a drum circle.
When you see the energy flagging on the dance floor, change the tempo. Usually this means picking it up a bit, however you have arranged to communicate that to your drummers. Sometimes, though, you need to slow it down, and get everyone aligned and locked into a funky groove together.
The leader has to take responsibility and make those decisions, and will get better with experience. I am always getting comments on how magic it was, that the pace just "happened" to pick up at just the right time. HA. I did it because I could see that's what the room needed. No accident about it.
Make agreements and train your fellow drummers in the ways you will communicate with each other, so you have standard signals for raising or lowering the tempo. Then be consistent. It doesn't really matter how you agree to do it, as long as you agree and follow it!
I always recommend starting the room at a slow tempo, so you have room to go higher when the room is ready.
First play something slow and interesting to both body and mind, and get them locked into their body and into the music. The heartbeat, or Yankadi, or Kuku really slow, are good examples.
THEN, when the signals present themselves in the dancers' movements and expressions, pick it up a notch. But only a notch, so there is still room to go higher, because there will come the time to take it to the limit. Then watch for further signals, and take it up again. And if you can, all together, with synchrony and clarity, go even higher, then go there too, if and when the dancers show the signs of wanting that.
Bring it down again after, sometimes just to the heartbeat, and you connect with them again. If there is time, they will be ready in a few minutes for another ride.
Yeehah! This is fun!
Robert always manages to inspire a crowd to dance, no matter who else is drumming. These are the Secret Principals he uses, that work every time.
Screaming with Joy
I am a musician myself but wanted to learn drumming. When I watch Robert drum for dancers at Dance Church, Sufi, and parties, and see how everyone starts moving, shouting and screaming with joy, it's amazing. I realized I wanted to do that! I have been taking group lessons from Robert once a week for about 2 months now, and for someone that never touched a drum before, I am getting better fast. His knowledge goes way beyond the rhythms and sounds - he really understands the art and spirit of it, the psychology and physiology of dancers. I get a lot out of every lesson, and I intend to join his performance group.
~~ Kevin Dalfonso, Musician, Systems Tech, Encinitas, CA
Get the Room Rocking
I met Robert some years ago. When I learned about his prowess as a drummer and rocking the djembe, I invited him to join my rock band, Clarke After Darke. He was amazing. It didn't matter what the song was, he was always able to get the room rocking with his strong percussive beats. And he dueled with the kit-drummer, like a swashbuckling pirate and they laid down some fabulous solos. Besides, he is a really kind and gentle person. We were sad when he left for California. We love him to bits.
~~ Clarke Stevens, Entertainer, CPA, Phoenix, AZ
I've been casually drumming for many years but never formally, and never with african drumming. Then I saw Robert drumming at our local dance church. I was amazed how he could change rhythms effortlessly and "communicate" with the other drummers. Not only is he a great drummer, he is an extraordinary teacher. He is kind, patient and shows a true love for drumming and teaching. When he asked us at our first lesson what were our goals, he didn't snicker or laugh when I said "I just want to be as good as you" - now my goal is to have fun and be as good as I can be, and if that even approximates a quarter of Robert's talent I will be grateful.
~~ Paul Paez, Chiropractor, Encinitas, CA