For my 28th birthday, my generous parents gave me cash to spend on useful things like books, photoshop, and an ipad-things that would help me further my design career. I thought about it long and hard and decided what I really wanted, was a drum set.
I always wanted to learn drums. I’d watch people play all the time but knew that it was too noisy and too much of an initial investment. Drums seemed daunting to me because drummers have to operate all four limbs at once. I never thought of myself as being that coordinated.
After to years of playing claves, dancing, and singing backup in an afrobeat group (simultaneously), it became clear to me that I was wrong about my natural drumming skills. “Hell”, I thought, “if I could do all those things at once, I could definitely keep a simple drum beat!” I also thought, “now is the time to do something I love. I work my butt off in my 9-5. I want to have ridiculous fun outside of work.I deserve it.”
Everything fell into place when I heard my conga player was selling his drum kit. I drove over to his house and picked up a tiny kick drum, a snare, and a high hat. It was love at first paradiddle.
For 6 months, I tried to copy drum beats, take lessons, and jam with others. I fell in love with drums because unlike violin, piano, or guitar, you had no chords and no melodies-just grooves and feels. It was a wonderful break from songwriting and it was so physical and meditative. Then, something magical happened.
I was in rehearsal for my afrobeat band, an ensemble made of 15 very skilled musicians. My drummer was late for rehearsal and the band wanted to play Colonial Mentality, a song by Fela Kuti. I raised my hand and volunteered to sit in while Shaun was out. My bandmates reluctantly agreed. They had seen me ding around on drums in the past few months. They counted off the song and everyone stared at me to see what sounds I’d make.
What happened next, was something straight out of Mighty Ducks. I played, I knew the part, and I actually sounded like a drummer. Everyone looked happily surprised (some more shocked than others) and applauded me for learning so quickly. I felt like a fucking rock star.
I wanted to share this story because I think there is so much to learn and experience in the world and that people often restrict themselves because of age or history. I know I do. I should have known after seeing my grandma travel to China in her 80s, that one can always grow and change-wherever they may be in their lives. This was such a great representation of that. Thank you grandma, and thank you drums, for paving the way.