Djembes, Singing Bowls and a Didgeridoo

At last weeks rotary meeting, which took place at the flat for domestically abused parents and children that Rotary helps sponsor, my club counselor invited me to come to visit his music therapy group. Not really sure of what to expect, and remembering that even though I know it will be a Monday after school and I'll be exhausted, I said yes. After all, "never say no while on exchange."

So Monday rolled around and of course I completely forgot until some light in the back of my head turned on and I remembered that I had obligations that evening. Knowing it was going to be something with music I knew it would be fantastic. After all, I do love music. However, after a particularly long and tiring day at school with work to be continued at home it still felt like more of an obligation, a responsibility, or a duty than anything. My host sister agreed with me and she griped about a test she needed to study for, while I griped about my lack of sleep and my need to study Czech and so we set to work until the last minute possible, battled the blistering cold winds, got a little lost and finally made it to the place.

Outside waiting I was pleased to see my little hiking buddy, Danny. He led us up a white industrial looking stairway that smelled of smoke and was hardly pleasant and when we reached the room we removed our shoes, opened the door, and we were immediately greeted by warmth, a soft candle lit room, pillows and blankets on the floors and at the front of the room a blanket with various instruments laid out to later be played. We were given a pillow, mat to lay on and blanket. As soon as we layed on the floor Domca (my host sister) and I immediately began laughing.

We TRIED quite hard, without much success, to muffle the giggles. It was like a hippie scene from a movie and my rotary counselor was the leader! While we have nothing personal against hippies or against music therapy we couldn't help but find the situation to be a bit hilarious. Two teenage girls with only five other participants in this setting - of course we were the ones giggling. We were wondering "what will we do here?" Will each of us play a song for the others to listen? We made interpretive, dramatic gestures with our hands of us playing a djembe drum for our little audience. After that the muffling of laughter was impossible. Luckily for us it wasn't rude because others were laughing amongst themselves too.

Sono after this we were welcomed by my counselor, who sat cross legged at the front of the room in his loose fitting clothes on top of a blanket behind the instruments... He did this in Czech, so the only word I understood was "welcome." The lights were dimmed and so it began, some sort of tribal shaker, that looked native American. It started slow and soft and gradually picked up in volume. Then came the humming... I had to look away from Domca and bite my lip not to laugh. I could not believe what I was hearing from this man I visit with every Tuesday. I had absolutely no idea he could sound like an African chanter. The deep hum of his voice should have been relaxing, and it was, for everyone but Domca and I.

However, as time went on I got passed the fact that this was so unusual, after all, I did go to a drum circle in New York and it was actually pretty cool that he knew how to play all of these instruments. Even while thinking this the occasional giggle did break through. After the shakers came the Singing Bowls. Which are literally bowls with some instrument you slide along the edges and it makes a soft hum. Depending on the bowl it almost sounds as if you are sliding your finger around the edges of a crystal glass. These particular Singing Bowls created a soft, deep hum that vibrated throughout the room. It was when these began that the giggling ceased.

All that was left was a relaxed smile and a warm feeling in the pit of my being. When he began to hum the tribal tones the feeling only increased. There were about five bowls and every time he played a new sound a wave of chills ran over my body. I feel into a trance. I was in Africa. I was in the desert with the natives. After this came the didgeridoo. It was a large, low pitched didgeridoo and an instrument I don't hear very often. I was asleep but I wasn't asleep. Just completely relaxed. I was in Australia with the Aborigines. Africa and Australia and America and Czech drifted in and out of my mind. Kenya, ballroom dancing, how it felt playing piano that day, Aborigines, my host family, the traditions of Czech, my family in the US, Native Americans, my school in the US and more but the amazing thing was that every thought was pleasant. What was also amazing was realizing how talented my rotary counselor is! He put the room to rest. When he walked around and stood over me playing the singing bowl it was the most amazing feeling! I had no idea a simple monotonous hum could do that.

We layed there for two hours, however, it felt like a moment. Afterwards I felt refreshed, rejuvenated and like I had a new wave of energy... I was ready to study again :D Needless to say, I look forward to doing that again and learning more about it.