This year Mitzi and Simon were invited to teach dundun dance in China! They taught at a 3-day camp on the Southern-most tip; the island of Hainan. Children and adults participated in the camp and it culminated in a performance at a university in Haikou city. A group of Chinese teaching artists also attended the camp and featured in the show.
Chinese djembe playing has it’s own unique flavour, as it does in all parts of the world. The company we observed has created tracks based on traditional rhythms which they play along to when they teach and also when they perform. Some tracks are in a reggae style, others have bird sounds and melodies that are enjoyable for young children. There is a strong element of showmanship, concentrating on body movements, smiling and connecting with the audience. These people have a lot of happy energy to share!
Interest in djembe is growing in China. In 2016, this company sold 100,000 Chinese-made djembes. The teaching program only started in 2014 but already it has grown very quickly with new shops and teachers popping up throughout the country. The economic boom has generated wealth that can be spent on leisure activities and these industrious, enthusiastic people and hungry for stimulation. Although few Chinese drummers seem to be travelling to Africa (none that we met), they are regularly bringing African and other foreign artists artists to China to teach them new skills.
Our Chinese hosts were impeccable. We were treated to a tour of the island – including visits to temples and theme parks in the holiday-town Sanya, amazing food and accommodation. We discovered that singing, drinking and spending lots of time with family and friends are important elements of Chinese culture.
We found the djembe community to be like a family in itself. We that we were welcomed with open arms and despite language barriers, already have much in common through West African music and dance. We have made some great friends. Let’s hope we can return the hospitality one day.
Here’s to djembe players of the world. Gambai!