Friday, January 25, 2008

My first Batucada gig!

Ever since I started learning to play the caixa with Batucada, I've been looking forward to performing with the group. Summer is absolutely full of Batucada gigs - including leading the Wellington Sevens parade next Thursday, and a gig at the Sevens itself next Saturday, and I was really hoping I would be good enough to be in the band before summer was over (and secretly aiming towards being ready in time for the Sevens). It seems as though my wish may be about to come true.

The Batucada directors and organisers have pulled out all the stops to enable the newbies to play at least some of the summer shows, and they've even said we can perform in our own white clothes until we get a chance to buy the official Batucada uniform.

So tomorrow Mike and I are heading up the coast to the Toots and Grooves Ska festival at Tatum Park, and I'm going to be playing! EEEEEEEEEEE! Or is that ohmygod!?

I'm a learner-by-doing kind of a person, and I figure that, for me, the way to get ready to perform with the group is actually to perform with the group. We did our 5 beginners' classes last year, and I stuck around for rehearsal after each one. For the final two, the newbies were invited to take part in the rehearsal, which was awesome. I think we had one more rehearsal before Christmas, and we've had one since New Year.

I think I've got the hang of all the rhythms we've played thus far - well, sort of, anyway. I still feel quite unsure about the changes and bridges - I don't think I've even heard all of them, let alone played them, but that's cool - I'll figure it out as I go along. The other caixa players are really good, and very easy to follow, so if by chance I get lost, I'll be able to watch them and get back into the groove.

The first time I was allowed to take part in the proper rehearsal, we played a bunch of stuff I'd not played before, and went through some bridges and changes that were new to me. I really enjoyed the challenge of keeping up with the experienced players, at full speed, and working out what was going on at the same time as playing it!

I think my Many Hands experience was really useful, actually. When I was playing at Full Moon drum circle, or just jamming with the band, the rhythms we played were all completely improvised. You listened with one ear to what was being played around you, and with the other ear to what you were playing, and you made sure that they matched in some way. It means I'm very quick at picking up a new rhythm, which I think will certainly be useful tomorrow!

I have no idea if we're playing on a stage tomorrow, or in a parade-type environment (I don't think so), or in a less formal environment, and I don't know if we get a chance to do a rehearsal before we play, either. I don't know how the director tells us what to play and when to do a change-up in a performance. I don't know if we'll have a set list of pieces so that we know what to expect. I haven't actually seen Batucada perform since I joined the group, so I haven't had a chance to observe how they do things, from the new perspective of someone who's going to be playing in the band.

I think I'm going to be experiencing quite a learning curve tomorrow afternoon! What fun!

I ordered my new caixa from Brazil-via-Germany yesterday, so hopefully it won't take too many days to arrive. I also picked up my new earplugs, which have been made especially to fit my (teeny little) ears. Hopefully they'll dampen down the volume while still allowing me to hear what I'm playing. It wasn't easy playing with cheap earplugs, because as well as blocking out much of the rest of the group, they also blocked out virtually all the sound coming from my own drum... and it ain't easy to tell whether you're in time if you can't actually hear yourself...

I had my first private lesson with Bill Brown on Tuesday - I want to improve my drumming technique, especially the traditional grip - and it was really helpful. I realise I was holding my sticks far too tightly, and that it's all about bounce and THE THUMB. I haven't got it well enough yet to do the bounce and the thumb at speed, but I'm getting there. I'm supposed to practice an hour a day. Crikey!

Today I went looking for white pants to wear at gigs until I get my official Batucada uniform, and I found a pair that are so nice, I think I may actually want to wear them in RL, instead of wearing them once or twice at shows and then never wearing them again. Hooray! It's all coming together!

And the best thing is... assuming I do OK tomorrow, I think I'll be able to take part in the Sevens parade, and maybe even the Sevens gig itself!

WOOHOO! Wish me luck!

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