Sunday. Last day. All over. Not quite. Schools' Fest starts tomorrow and some of the ArtsFest's offerings will still be here for that. But the town's emptying fast. Already, the eyelids of our usually sleepy hollow are starting to droop. And all I can do is look back and marvel! So much was, and so many were, here. Here it all was. So here we all were. HERE WE ALL WERE!!! Truly amazing!
You see, beyond astounding creativity abounding; even more than the breathtaking choice of what to do, see and experience; over and above the spectacular aray of whats and hows, is the glory of who! Because more than anything, a festival like the Grahamstown flings people together with an artistic intensity that truly allows sparks to fly off at every human interactive collision. It puts individuals from far-flung corners of the country and the globe into the greatest creative cocktail shaker in our nation, and one of the finest on the planet; and what emerges is totally delicious - the sweet inebriation that comes ultimate human expression, be it from those presenting their work, the response of their audience, or the connections formed between audience members themselves.
Collaboration! What a word! What a practice!
With so much incredible talent in town for the week, ArtsFest for SunshiP creates an annual context of connection between us and a myriad others like us - those strange beings who sing, strum drum and toot for their supper - musicians. Througth ArtsFest, my drumming or our band has been catapaulted on a competency progression trajectory it would have been impossible to achieve without it. We are who and what we are, in many ways, because of ArtsFest. The festival is essentially the annual growth spurt that defines the year that follows. Our year. My year.
My drumming years: 2.5
My drumming festivals: 3
Fest 1: After 41 years on Earth, finally a drumkit. Finally the chance to do what I'd dreamt of daily as a child. Still hardly any idea how to properly hold a stick. Cue in Kesivan Naidoo - arguably the best drummer in the country and that year's Standard Bank Young Artist for Jazz - and his gracious kindness at cancelling a rehearsal in his busiest festival ever, to give me the 3 hour drum lesson that started and changed everything! I also become mates with Steve Newman, Ashish Joshi and Greg Georgiades - three outstanding musicians and truly good men - who lodge with me for the duration of fest. Go to every one of Kes' gigs and watch him like a hawk. Jam a bit with Greg and Tony Cox, two musical giants who so graciously play with a total newby.
Fest 2:First year of SunshiP in existence, and a small, regular, late-night pub gig throughout fest. Kes comes to watch. So do Steve, Greg, many others. They live with me again. The tips I get are insightful. The courage I gain from performing before those I deeply respect, is deeply heartening. The proficiency I develop through intense, regular, performance is priceless! Go to every band that has a good drummer and watch them like a hawk.The name SunshiP is first heard by those outside of Gtown. Our Sunday jams after fest transform to band practices.
Fest 3: Second year of SunshiP. Second fest as SunshiP. Steve, Greg and Ashish are back and staying with me again. So's Kes and our late-night drumming conversations and lessons. Two festivals of intense development with two focused years in between and the band and my playing have come a long way. Now our band performs on various occassions with Steve, Greg, Ashish and Rick van Heerden. We now have acoustic guitar, bouzouki, arabian drum and sax ontop of our trio. Blues and exotic instruments played by those who love music is a dreammatch! We blow our audiences away - a perfect demographic mix of every race ad age in the country. Out of towners who saw us last year come looking for us. That they do, makes me laugh and cry for an hour after in a parking lot I hear, "You're the drummer from SunshiP. We've been looking for you everywhere!" We start to whisper the sacred phrase, "Crossover appeal." More tips! More staring at every move of every great drummer at fest. More growth. SunshiP and I emerging on a higher level! Talks of an album of the full fest ensemble. Laughing like kids onstage. And me now comfortable on kit.
So this year, I walk out of fest a drummer - really a drummer in my own eyes! For that alone, and for the last three years of glorious growth context they've given me, I could kiss Ismail Mahomed and Tony Lancaster, (ArtsFest Director & CEO), on both cheeks with tears in my eyes! For all they do to create "amazing" they deserve more praise than any of us could give!
Ultimately, what I think I'm trying to say, is that festival is always a beautiful germination point of something within each of us, which rises up and out of us because we were here. So yes I could tell you that there is almost an over-abundance of human creation to entertain and astound you at ArtsFest - and I'd be telling the absolute truth! You have to, have to, have to, HAVE TO come and see for yourself the majestic beauty of creation that humanity is capable of. But whatever you experience, more importantly, what I guarantee that this will elicit in, and from, you, will be your gift to take home forever from the Grahamstown National Arts Festival, with love!
Fest is over and I've been crying and laughing all day.
Tomorrow we wrap up.
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