Guangzhou & Final China Report – May 2017

Hello My Friends,

While driving anywhere in China you have to use your horn as much as your steering wheel. In fact I was in a cab where the driver kept one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand on the horn.

Outside my hotel window, in any city I have been to in China, there is always a car horn symphony going on.

A car horn is a communication device to let a pedestrian or a tricyclist know that you are about to run over them, if they don’t get out of the way (pedestrians have no right-of-way). You honk to let the driver in front of you know that you want them to move faster or get out of the way. You honk to tell the car in front of you that the light has turned green or that your going to move into someone else’s lane.

Driving in China is the art of polite aggression. It is measured by 2 to 3 inches between cars, instead of 2 to 3 feet like in America. It is similar to driving in southern Italy, where they play chicken while they drive, and where a stop sign is considered only a suggestion. The only difference between Italian and Chinese driving is that Italian driving is measured by 1 or 2 inches so the Italian cars have a lot more dents in their fenders than the Chinese cars.

Guangzhou, China is a massive spread out metropolis that is much bigger than LA. It has a number of different large city centers similar to Tokyo. It took as long to drive from the airport to the part of Guangzhou where the Playshop was held, as it took to fly to Guangzhou from Wuxi.

Guangzhou is in the very south of China and is close to Hong Kong, so it was no surprise that Channon, my man in Hong Kong, showed up to this program. Channon is not involved in the China “Level 1-2-3” system but is a VMC-Certified Mentor, so I gave him Level 3 assignments throughout the program. His first assignment was to do the opening Drum Call, which I used as a platform for my opening presentation.

Day two’s opening drum call was done by Song Li, (Level 2), and she was critiqued in front of the group as part of the program by Chocolate (Wong Goofing, Level 3).

Chocolate has attended a total of 6 Playshops so far. One on my first China tour, one each on my second and third tours. And Chocolate has a attended all of the four Playshops on this year’s China tour. Chocolate’s critique of Song Li’s opening drum call has showed me how much he has matured in the last 4 weeks with 80 hours of Playshop time under his belt. He now has the big picture radar.

Some of the great points he made are:

  • Stage one, Dictator – The attention is given to the dictator teaching body language to the players in the circle.
  • • Stage two, Director – The attention is given to the player’s pitch, timber or drum type.
  • • Voice is as important as body language, when facilitating the group.
  • • After moving from ‘Rhythm Switch’ to ‘Modulation’ – if at the end of the modulation the groove is stable, then just leave the circle while marking the pulse. There is no need for a Call To Groove.
  • After you’ve completed the Directors Job Description, pay attention to the music coming from the circle and facilitate.
  • You don’t need to be a professional musician, music teacher, or drummer to be a good DCFacilitator.

The intention of all the Level 2 Challenge tasks in any Playshop are two-fold. One reason we do them is to educate and inform the tasked facilitator. The second reason is to deliver to the group a more sophisticated viewpoint of the inner workings of the Anatomy of a facilitated drum circle.

Chan Li, was the organizer of the Wuxi Playshop. She also attended this Guangzhou Facilitator Training, so I assigned her to do the ‘Run The Map’ demonstration at the beginning of Day 3.  Right afterwards, Channon did the full critique of Chan Li’s facilitation for the whole population.

Every progressive Challenge demonstration is an opportunity to up level the understanding of the Facilitator technologies and concepts and define them, as we put them into practice.

Here are some of the major points that Channon made during his Critique:

  • On the fact that all Facilitation is some sort of Manipulation, “Don’t use your players, Serve them.”
  • In Director mode, sometimes you are being very obvious and sometimes you are being very un-obvious.
  • Most of the time most drum circles players can not reach orchestration by themselves.
  • Begin by imitating styles and then develop your own style.
  • Knowing the “What to Do” doesn’t inform you “When to do it,” but knowing “Why you are doing it” informs you “What to do” and When to do it.”
  • You have 3 days to learn from Arthur, and then you have the “infinity” of your life to learn from yourself. That’s why this is a learning-how-to-learn Playshop.

So far, I have done eleven drum circle facilitation Playshop trainings all over China in only four years. There has been astounding results in such a short time…

  • Where most Playshop populations all over the world have been around 30 to 40 people, the average Chinese Playshop population has been 65 or above.
  • There are now regular drum circles being held in a number of large Chinese metropolitan cities where recreational drumming wasn’t even a concept a few years before.
  • There are now hundreds of VMC-trained school teachers using rhythm-based events in their classroom. Thanks to REMO and KHS Music, there are many schools in China that have REMO drum kits capable of serving a playing population of 70 or more.
  • The Chinese Music Therapy community has embraced rhythm-based events with gusto. Music therapists consist of at least one half of any VMC Playshop population in China.
  • The West African Tam Tam drumming community in China has been passing my name around. The result is that there are always a handful good African drummers in my trainings that I have been able to utilize.

During this Chinese Playshop tour, Jing Chen has been my major translator following me all over China. We have created a great working relationship and she will be helping with the translation of both the VMC DCFacilitators Handbook and the Rhythmical Alchemy Playshop drum circle games book, both due out in Chinese language in December.

Tonny, from KHS Music, and I have determined that China is ready for a 6-day Playshop program next year, so that is what we will do. But Tonny also wants me to come back a second time in 2018 and do another series of 3-day Playshops around the country.

OK!  Go to China twice in one year?  Never say no to Rhythmical Evangelism.

On to Korea!….

Life is a dance   Arthur