& Idioms of the Drums

The Morning Credo

Twi’twi’ twi’lilililili~~~ | twi’twi’twi~~~

The sounds came streaming in, not in an intrusive manner, rather like a calming prelude, transmitting and conveying blurry visual images and floating aural impressions of the outside world that was just beginning to rise up to the visible world which the faint rays of the Sun had began to illuminate.
That sudden presence of those eloquent voices within the fields of our auditory sensibilities, ushering in a partial glimpse of the dawn as it spurred consciousness into a wakeful and an attentive state.
The constant back and forth dialogues, flutter of wings and crackling sounds of twigs, was extinguishing the somnolent diaphragm of the night, texturing and layering the foundations of a sonorous morning credo of the day, and allowing the languages of the universes of things and non things in doing what it does best, talking directly and permeating the entirety of the visible and the non visible.
The yellowish and golden orange coloured stanzas of the rising sun, with its own poetic and eloquent morning cadence, was flooding the hills, slowly dispelling and dissipating the lingering remnants of the receding night, stirring creation into a conscious state of visibility and awareness as the world began to arise from its deep universes of dreams and of that which lies beyond the thresholds of time and consciousness.
We had awaken to the ubiquitous and captivating aural performances of the Savannahs, as the night’s tender and amorphous bluish glare began fading into it’s own folds. Its meditative evanescence, interleaving with the emerging cantos of the abundant presence of life.
This ambient and gneissoid intertwining of everything, painted a mysterious portrait of different dimensions and realms of the unknown. It seemed to sharpen our receptivity and the perception of what is. As the singing and morning chants increased with each passing moment, so too was the day unsheathing and unveiling itself all around us, exfoliating it’s own layers of ambiguous forms and structures and of the lingering vestiges of the night.

The sun’s mesmerising rays danced, splashed and coloured the undulating crests of the hills, it’s orange tentacles spreading everywhere, extruding and then initiating an orchestration and a symphonic light display on the innumerable tiny dew droplets that were suspended ever so delicately on the flowers, buds, leaves, stalks and stems of the awakening plants. They sparkled and shone with a silky lustre from the refracted and reflected sunlight, like an ocean of milky diamonds. The ochre coloured earth mixed with the glare of micas and feldspars underneath our feet seemingly sang and glowed vibrantly as if in affirmation of the ineffable spirit which seems to be pervading the entire Savannah this fine morning.
As the day progressed with its own theologies and languages of the unknown, indecipherable to the categorised spheres of so called five senses, the world of things continued to unfold all around us. It was uplifting the fields of thought, feelings, emotions and giving that fundamental sense of well being which seems to be so intimately connected and intertwined with the sounds, lights, motions and movements of the worlds of forms and matter.
Gazing across the land, one could feel the expansive breath of the Savannah, its voluminous presence seeming to sprawl endlessly into an unfathomable religiosity of nothingness and of the infinite. It hummed and buzzed with life, its gusto flooded the senses with a dazzling array of sensory stimuli, at deep levels of the body’s biology and its psychological realms, each stimuli as intense and compellingly vibrant as the others.
This awakened world of variegated life forms, teeming with all kinds of aural, visual and kinetic expressions that were interweaving with the radiance of the rising sun, vibrated with multitudes of colours and the shifting structures and shapes of swaying plants and fluttering leaves. It kept our heightened consciousness in a state of attentiveness to everything which was within the visible realms of the tangible.
The smell of beetles, green and brown hoppers with red coloured wings, chum’che’rerehs1, crisscrossing lines of marching ants, all mingled with that of the luxuriant greenery; permeated and infused the atmosphere with a peculiarly idiomatic aroma characteristic of the highland Savannah. Meanwhile above our heads, high up the skies, the birds of prey, it would seem could not be persuaded to hold themselves as they circled in an endless delightful dance of hovering, diving and occasionally swooping to catch their choice of prey within the immense ocean of insect life beneath them.
It was one of those days, when it would seem the earth had taken a conscious decision to rise up with a sustained crescendo of exalted phenomena. It pulsated in a palpable manner and voiced its elated states in multitudinous voices; in light, with colours and sound, expressed in motion and movements. The flowers shimmered and the foliages shriek in a delightful and wavery orchestrated patterns. Shrubs and trees waltzed to the winds, their shadows and silhouettes playing with the light. The little stream down in the small valley equally chanted with its own watery idiolect; the amphibians living near its banks chorused in the affirmative whilst the crunching sound of our feet on fallen twigs added to the Savannah’s own orchestration of landscape, rhythm and motion, movements and sound, light and colours. As if the ethereal orchestration couldn’t be complete without their own voices, the faint echoes of chanting floated and reverberated from across the distant hills like a tender tonic balm, probably from some women working and tending to their Mun’karis2.

pssp’ pssp’ pssp’ | twit… twit… sorrrrrr…longh..ongh.ongh.… | krrrrk… krrrrk… krrrrrk…
wudt’ wudt’ wudt’ | bsss… bsss… bssss… | trrrrr trrrrr trrrrrr | twi… twi… twi’ling…

As the day journeyed on its own timeline, we had made our way to the banks of the little stream that separated two hills around the area where our school was located. Above us, the skies shimmered and gleamed with cascading gradients and shades of blue, punctuated here and there with an occasional whispery splash of yellow and white. The green fields around us, on the side of the banks of the stream, bustled with the excited sounds of birds and the whirrs of insects intermingling with the whooshing sounds of corn stalks rising in neat rows from the bottom of the valley to the crest of hills. We had come to this little stream searching for tadpoles and the tasty fruits which grew along its banks.

The Exuberant Chants of The Midday.

We had not been long at that little stream, before the music came streaming to us, at first in nebulous and undulating waves, seemingly like cascading layers of variegated aural stanzas floating in voluminous effusive blobs, vibrating and propulsive with diverse tonal variations. Its compelling aura suddenly moving aside everything within our consciousness of the moment, as it gently focused the mind’s attention towards the direction of the source.

ta’ ta’ taaah… te’ dem
ta’ ta’ taaah…te’ dem…
ta’ta’ta’ta… taaah… te’dem …

The powerful reverberating echoes of the music filled the atmosphere as it rose upwards in sono-poetic spirals, its multidimensional aural imprints sculpting and wrapping an evocative rhythmical clothing around the entire environment in sonic glyph like formations, texturing and inducing resonances from everything around the area.

ra’ta’ta’ta’… ta’ta’tah’ te’h te’dem

The music rose and swelled unto an exalted state, solo drums peaking in porphyritic crescendos, each accented note cascading like myriads of multiple voices tunneling forward and perching on the cusp of our consciousness. Spurring and inducting us into its transcendent state. Its piercing intensity, rose and diminished in a gradual subsiding diminuendo of stomping foot rattles that tapered to a hesitant pause, leaving all of us in awe of its thunderous and numinous power. Instantaneously it picked up again with more vigor, gushing and pouring forth, again and again in tantalising and teasing waves, swirling and engulfing all of us into a sympathetic quanglement where the experiencers, the experiencing and the experience became entangled within that inexplicable matrix of oneness.
After all, the constituent elements and building blocks of the biology or the psychology of being takes its roots and origin from the universe, it would then seem that nothing was amiss when it all comes together simultaneously in the moment when the music is able to induce everything to vibrate and resonate at same frequency with the same intensity.
Ebullient and ineffable with multiple tonal and shifting evanescent exuberance, the ambient atmosphere with its reverberated colourings of the universes of things, had collapsed those opaque borders between mind and the realities of an unnameable, unexplored realms of emotions, feelings, psychokinesis, evocative symbols, imageries, forms and even of faculties which were not yet known to us.

ta’ta’ du’tata du dum…, ta’ta du’ta’ta du dum…

The sonorous voices of the bass drums continued to boomed over the hills in thicken and bold vertical stanzas, their dense pulses layering a storyline with a patterned recursive and cyclic voicing. This unfolding and steady propulsive beat was stencilling the rhythmic structural timeline. Upon this timeline, the melodic lines of cowbells, rattlers and horns, sat as idiomatic and motivic containers, profusely painting alternating melodic and percussive lines with intervallic patterns in between the dense textural rhythms of the log drums. Even without a physical presence at the performance space, the encoded scenes and images, movements and events were being conveyed to us via aural transmission and simultaneously being decoded. We heard, we experienced and lived the moment without being present, the entire gamut of constantly changing patterns, dancers, people, clothing, elements all appearing as an amorphous gigantic kaleidoscope of colours and sounds.
As the sounds rose up once more into a frenzied crescendo, accented and emphasised by solo tenor drummers intervening with rippling tremolos, rolling percussive chants, punctuating the rhythmic continuum, the voices of the singers accompanied the new movement delicately with lyrical melodic lines, evocative of the timeless.

ah tata tum ke li’bam beh…! eh e—h li’bam beh…
oh yah ho ho—ho…. eh e—h li’bam beh….

So it came, permeating and flooding the totality of our beings with its essence, finding and anchoring on those corresponding sympathetic resonance nodes within the mind and activating our bodies deep down at the cellular level.
The left feet and then the right tapped rhythmically, followed by the gesticulations of the hands in left-right, right-left patterns and the entire body dramatically rising up and merging with the persuasive mood and mould of the music.

The ceremonious performance that was unfolding just around the corner from where we were, had completely engulfed us within its universes of imagery and sound, symbols and evocative sceneries, it’s incantatory voicing extruding variegated visual and aural narratives, each with a story enfolded within a story, layered in an onion like matrix of deep time, shifting to connect with events of the now and receding to disappear and reappear behind memory nodes, memories whose eviscerating tones had kicked the minds imaging and intuitive faculties into a hyperactive sensing mode.

spirits of the hills and valleys…
your breath…
permeates and touches all…

your embedded presence…
is the signature tune

we have eaten the Sun…
it’s flames has not singed our being …
and we dance to the rhythm of your breath….

The overwhelming potency of the moment pervaded everywhere. Experience, experiencer, hills, valleys, stream, people, sun, things, and all were merge as a totality.
It had, it would seemed, nudged aside everything of the present moment into a temporary time container within the unknown layers of being, whilst it summoned to the surface of consciousness via its symbolic languages a transcendent world of inspirational possibilities.

1.) First Sound Track, Title; Sounds Of The Savanna | Tanka Fonta | Released: 2021. Track 1. Genre: Art Music
2.) Second Sound Track, Title; Nùn Vó Mbómmùn Ndzi Ya M’Boh Ti | Tanka Fonta | Released: 2021. Track 1. Genre: Composed Music
3.) Second Sound Track, Title; Sounds Of The Savanna | Nùn Vó Mbómmùn Ndzi Ya M’Boh Ti | Tanka Fonta | Released: 2021. Track 1. Genre: Composed Music
4.) Chum’che’rerehs1 : Local Bantu name for an insect belonging to the cricket family.
5.) Mun’karis2. A farming technique practised by the Ngembas of the NW Region in Cameroon.

About The Author

Tanka Fonta

Author & composer, visual artist & performer, multi-instrumentalist, poet, researcher & independent scholar.