Second verandah jam

Friday, day 72

The jamming on the verandah has continued. Yesterday, around 3.40pm, kids started to gather in the street in front of the house, waiting for Tony and me to wave them in. We assembled on the floor and on the chairs, and focused our attention on drumming (using buckets). One had cracked the day before, due to being hit with sticks so today we encouraged them to hit the drums with their hands only.

We are working in these jams completely without a translator. Little by little, I find the kids are getting used to the way I use Tetun (it’s obviously a bit irregular for them) and understand the way we are setting things up musically. We do a lot of copying, and call-and-response patterns. I’ve also introduced the idea of ‘question’ and ‘answer’ this week.

Because we started a bit earlier, the girls came along (they have to go to choir practice around 4.30pm). Girls encourage a more thoughtful style of playing, we find! When the group is all boys, things tend to descend more quickly into the ‘bash the crap out out of it and then each other’ school of playing.

Yesterday we started with rhythms. Tony revisited some of the ideas that had worked well in Baucau – a rock-based ‘echo’ rhythm in 4/4 which we performed in 2 groups, and then a unison rhythm. I grabbed some paper and created a graphic score using coloured-in boxes to show the beats and the rests, and also introduced the idea of singing the rhythms using ta, ti-ti and sah.

We practised progressing from one rhythm to the next, after 8 repetitions. As in any group, some kids got the gist of what we were aiming for right away, others never really caught on, but played along just the same.

Then I introduced a song in English that was composed a few years back by some of my students at the English Language School in Melbourne. It’s a song in the pentatonic scale that I really like – I’ve used it for MSO Jams as well, and taught it lots of different classes. Because it was written by newcomers to English, the words aren’t too difficult, and they reflect the kind of lyrics you hear in pop songs:

So-so feeling, I’ll be happy

I don’t care

When I’m with you, baby, darling

Love, love you.

So we learned those words together, and I gave them a rough translation in Tetun.

Then we began to piece those three sections (the two rhythms, and the song) together, giving a big cue when it was time to switch to the next section.

We finished up with a quick jam on the song I taught in Baucau, Mo bako mino fway, and then everyone helped us pack up the instruments, waved good-bye and headed home.

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