Back at Oberlin, I did lion dance along with some of the other CSA members. We weren’t very good or very disciplined, but it was fun to move around and use muscles that don’t get a lot of attention in ballet. Being a dancer, I focused on the dance exclusively, letting other people play the instruments while I tried to learn how to make the lion’s mouth move.
That was until one of our new members spent a winter term learning how to lion dance and how to play the instruments. This was coupled with an influx of new members and perhaps some laziness on my part, so I stepped back and decided to try the drum. I admit that I didn’t expect it to be very exciting. I had a good understanding of the patterns already from dancing and while hitting a big drum is always nice, that’s pretty much it.
I quickly found that I was completely wrong. Playing the drum was awesome. For one thing, I always underestimate just how good it will feel to hit a big drum, but it didn’t stop there. It turned out (unsurprisingly, I suppose) that the drum is actually very complex. In some passages, the drum has the freedom to improvise, which is a lot of fun. The drum is also the one that’s really in control, which means that it’s not a passive role at all.
Long story short, playing the drum was great and then I graduated. I have, however, recently rediscovered the joys of drumming, not for lion dance but on kendhang—the drum that’s part of gamelan music.
In music classes at ISI, everyone rotates through all the instruments which means that, for the first time, I’ve had the chance to really try kendhang. Unsurprisingly, it’s awesome. It’s really hard, perhaps because my ballet teacher is right and I have no sense of rhythm. The drum patterns also get really complicated really fast. Which can be fun. Once you understand what’s going on.
And I’m actually starting to understand. I’m not amazing—I can barely make it through one song—but the pieces are starting to fit together. Suddenly, the drum has started to make sense. For the first time ever, for me anyway, the drum feels important. Everything is clicking together.