Monday, October 16, 2006

The ability to drum doesn't make me a Baila King.

So, here's the story.

This coming Saturday there is one of these London Sri Lankan dinner dance things at one of the hotels. It's organised by one of the thousands of SL associations that arrange these things so that many of the Sri Lankan diaspora can get together, have a half decent meal, a bit of a dance, a good chinwag with some old friends and raise some money for charity. All good stuff and fun will undoubtedly be had by all.

My whole family is going along. Matriarch, Patriarch, myself and both bros, along with wives and probably some friends too. Quite a lethal cocktail of people, and that's just going to be on our table. The day also happens to be the birthday of my Dad and one of my brothers, so it will be a good one. I've always thought that it's a remarkable coincidence, their birthday falling on the same day, but it seems to happen virtually every year.

On Saturday my parents walked the short distance to my house for some reason and, after some preamble, my Dad dropped the bombshell on me. One of those earth shattering ones that are common and probably part of everyday life in North Korea, just not frequent around Teddington, or much of London. Except some of the dodgy areas.

You know the score with these dinner dances don't you? There'll be some band playing those old easy listening songs. "Help me make it through the night", "Island in the Sun" and all those old favourites.

Then, later on, a fairly pissed old Sri Lankan bloke, usually a Doctor but sometimes a leading lawyer or a Captain of Industry, will be thrown up on the stage by friends and family to play or sing some baila. Very occasionally the band will be Sri Lankan and they'll know Baila, but usually they're not. And they don't.

Within seconds the dancefloor is filled by older generation brown people dancing the Baila. A small scattering of English people will be attempting to join in but frankly they just don't have the natural sense of flapping elbows and keeping your hands by your side that we Sri Lankans are brought up with. It's all led by the pissed bloke and the band are doing their best to jam along to something they're wholly unfamiliar with.

That's the scene set now.

Take yourself back to my place with my parents.

"Rhythmic", says the old man.

"Yes Dad", says I.

"I told Aunty R (the chairwoman of the committee and old family friend) that you'd play some Baila on the drums if they need it on Saturday".

"What Dad!!!????"

"I told Aunty R............." he repeats.

"But why? I can't play the Baila", which to me is a perfectly good reason not to volunteer your son to perform in front of all your peers.

"Yes you can" he says. "You were playing it the other day" and he proceeds to sing a baila. The logic being that, if something is sung to me, I can immediately play it on the drums. His singing is very rhythm based, enough for any Sri Lankan son to recognise as a Baila rhythm but not enough to miraculously give me super baila powers.

"Chik kerr de, chik kerr de, chik kerr de, chik kerr, da doong ga de,
chik ker de, chik kerr de, chik kerr da doong ga de........"

Fathers have this amazing ability to think that their children can do anything, I know this as I am one. Just ask your Dad if you doubt me. Not about whether I am a Father but if he thinks you can do anything. He'll say yes. In my Dad's eyes I'm a master drummer, giving regular lessons to Billy Cobham, Dave Grohl and probably Ravibandu too.

The reality is different. Once, about 4 years ago, I had a 5 minute lesson from a nice old chap who was playing at the Triton in a band. I asked him to show me the basic Baila rhythm and he kindly did. I've practiced it a bit and I made the mistake of showing it to the old proud Dad once.

So, here I am. I've got 5 days to master it and then probably won't get asked to play on Saturday anyway. If I don't practice it then that will guarantee that I'll get shoved onto the stage and acclaimed as a master Baila drummer. Until I start playing.

I'll get working then. I'll let you know what happens but, if you're at a dinner dance on Saturday at one of the Heathrow hotels and you hear some chap murdering the Baila on the drums, chances are it'll be me.

Come and say hello.

Oh, and tell my Dad you think the drummer's great. Thanks.

5 comments:

Horus said...

Good one dude. Send us a postcard if you make it thru.

sach said...

This post just made my life look bleaker than it is right now. When I was six I thought that at twelve my parents would stop pestering me to do things they think I can but I really can't and if I do make an attempt at them I'd just embarass myself. At twelve I thought maybe at twenty. And now I'm twenty and I thoguht I'll give it about another 5 years. Apparently not!!! At least now I can just be cynical about it ;)

SpectralCentroid said...

Har har. Bad scene mate. Just make sure everyone is drunk enough, no one will notice...

Rhythmic Diaspora said...

SC and Horus - Thanks for your concern, I'll do my best.

Sach - Be cynical, be very cynical, for one day you will become your parents!

Theena said...

Good luck, mate. Like SC said, just wait till everyone is drunk. I've found that Sri Lankans will dance to anything when intoxicated.