The second night of the Geia Fesival was the showdown with the djembe cowboys

The second night of the Geia Fesival was the showdown with the djembe cowboys

excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story” Russell Buddy Helm

©2013 all rights reserved

The second night of the Geia Festival was the showdown with the djembe cowboys. There were a few dozen people gathering around the fire, eager to drum and dance. Three big guys walked into the middle of the circle and started banging. They didn’t show any respect for anyone and what they were playing was very bad; just a lot of banging and posturing. I was already set up with my stool, djembe stand and tambourine pedal. They just ignored what was already going and disrupted the circle and the dance. The other drummers gave up. I got in their face and waved my white taped up hands to distract them.

“You can’t do that.” I said loudly over their noise.

“F**k you.” the biggest one said. I grinned. This was going to be fun.

“You’re scared little boys making a whole lot of noise. You don’t respect the other drummers. You don’t respect the dancers. You don’t respect the women, and you don’t respect the women drummers. You don’t respect yourselves. I am not going to let you do this anymore.” I waged my white taped up fingers in their faces again. This is a good trick to remember when someone is locked into aberrant behavior; distract them with a visual.

“F**k you.” All three of them said. They banged louder. It was apparent that they were playing from a place of dysfunctional behavior; deep insecurity, resentment about daddy and mommy, not getting laid, a typical list of reasons why guys act like dickheads.

“If you want World War III; then right here, right now. But I wouldn’t advise it. I am not going to let you make that horrible noise and disrespect what these people are trying to do here.”

Another round of profanity. So I let them have it,

“THE GIRLS DON’T LIKE YOU!” I yelled at them. That got their attention. They stopped banging. They looked around at the people gathered around us. The women were glaring at them nodding their heads in agreement.

The ring leader sneered at them, “Who is this asshole?” He said nodding in my direction. Cy’s girlfriend held up the brochure that held my bio and recited out loud,

“This is..”..she listed the people I had played with. Their stoney faces started to droop a little. They tried to regain the upper hand but I was quicker, and started a groove with the downbeat, and the tambourine; the typical dance groove that has always worked. The girls yelled,

“That’s it! That’s what we want. Not that crap you’re playing! ”

They got defensive, “The fire tenders asked us to come here!”

Now the fire tenders are a romantic lot; they don’t drum much, don’t dance much, but they make the fire happen, essential to the whole effect. They take great pride in their art of stacking logs that erupt in a celebratory blaze at the beginning of each night’s festivities. I wasn’t going to let these guys use them as an excuse. I got up in the big guy’s face. He was actually bigger than me, not as big as Terry the Tramp, but sizable.

“The PROMOTERS! of this festival, HIRED ME! to come out here, and DUST YOUR LILY WHITE ASS!!! Which is what I will do….”

I’ve had unexpected swings on me ranging from high school football rednecks to drunked up step father, martial arts competitors as well as motivated professionals but the thing that saved me from injury was a combination of my father’s instincts and my drummers’ quick reflexes. This big guy considered swinging on me, I could feel it, but I gave him the look….The dancers gathered around. This was their turf and they gave these guys the unmistakable impression to leave. I took my eyes off of him, giving him a way out, and focused on setting up a groove that would dissipate the angry little boy energy.

The big guy tried to mimic what I was doing but couldn’t play that simply. I started to realize then, that drumming was a way to read someone’s psychological profile. This was a valuable lesson that I learned from these guys. They gave up and left. The groove picked up again and everyone had a good time.

The next day, dancers followed me around the heavily forested retreat. As I got to meet all the regulars, some would come up and express their gratitude. Others would make suggestions about taking the tempos even slower so they could dance for longer stretches at a time.. They were excited about the possibilities. I didn’t know that they were staying close to me to protect me. The three djembe cowboys were looking for me. They had made it known that they wanted to ‘kick my ass’ which was unusual for this group of peaceful people. Cy mentioned later that the they had confronted him at his drum booth and wanted to know where I was. Cy, it turned out was a Marine, said, “Why don’t we all just get along.”

Guys are so sensitive about their rhythm it’s almost too easy to get their goat just by criticizing their sense of rhythm. It is partly a result of a thousand years of being denied a groove in our European tribes. When the Romans came across Europe with the Church, they wiped out all indigenous rhythms from the Caucasus to the isle of Britain. Dancing and drumming were pagan, evil, and punishable by death. As a result we have a deep insecurity and shame about our rhythms. Other races know this about the American/Europeans. It is our blind side. In the martial arts world, Far East schools train to drum beats, often in time signatures that we don’t easily understand like five and seven beats. This gives them a distinct advantage in fighting; we cannot anticipate their moves, but they can totally anticipate American/European moves because our training is based on simplistic four beats.

Bruce Lee said it succintly, “If you want to defeat your opponent, all you have to do is break their rhythm.”

Bruce would parody American karate martial artists by pretending to move like a stiff robot. Bruce was the cha cha champion of Hong Kong. He loved to dance. When I was being tested privately, for a belt in karate when I was sixteen, I managed to kick and punch my teacher simoultaneously.

“How did you do that?” he asked with some surprise. Then he remembered, “Oh yeah, you’re a drummer!”

The next afternoon, at the festival pavilion, I gave my three hour drumming meditation seminar on their huge professional stage with a giant sound system. Hundreds of sincere drummers, men and women, kids and adults, handicapped and whole, all listening and playing along, getting the downbeat concept, the basic four and three beat patterns, the purpose of the slower tempos for dance, protecting the space. It was a great long, high consciousness drumming workshop, one of the best. When I came down off the stage I was in an exhalted state. The drumming had gotten me here to this sacred place and everyone was sharing the groove. I felt vindicated and full of the spirit.. Suddenly my spider instincts woke up, someone was on my left blindside, I turned and saw one of the bad guys within knife thrust of my left kidney. He was just looking at me. His sock cap pulled down over his dark eyes.

“I heard your workshop…..that was good.” He said in a subdued tone.

I stuck out my hand and shook his, “It’s about love.” I said.

There were no cameras allowed but I had set mine up, focused just on me on the stage, and got a little of the drumming affirmation, “I am not a victim” and posted it later on youtube.

excerpt “History of the Groove, drummer’s story” Russell Buddy Helm

©2013 all rights reserved

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