Hangzhou, China 2016 Report

Hello My Friends,

To start off the Hangzhou visit, (pronounced HungJoe), I did a drum circle at the "Cai He” high school which holds over two thousand students. Cai is the name of a particular lotus flower that grows in the region. One of my Level 2 Playshop students, Zhon Yao, a music teacher who works there, set up the one hour gig with about eighty 14-year-olds.

It was a whole lot of work in the beginning, as in most Asian first time school drum circles, and a whole lot of fun at the end, as usual.

The concept of improvisation is hard to grasp for the kids at first. They are concerned that they could be wrong and be judged and want to play a “safe” rhythm. If I am not careful, they will usually end up playing, (as a group), what I call the “Asian Virus” pattern;

X  X  XXX  X  X  XXX  X  X  XXX FOREVER if you don’t divert them.

So I came up with a new body language signal that communicates to the players that they have permission to “Be Creative” – "Make up their own rhythm pattern” – “ To improvise on the part that they are playing” which is usually the part that has been passed out to them by the facilitator. That body language signal goes like this: Put your finger up in the air above your head like you would for an attention call and then twirl it around over your head like your twirling a lasso around your head. Once they understand what the signal means, it works wonderfully.

By setting up the signal ahead of time the response of the players is quick to turn a pattern, or patterns, that you passed out to the group as “Platforms for Improvisation” into actual improvisation. I am now using it in the 3-day Hangzhou Playshop and plan on experimenting with it for the rest of the Asia tour.

The demographics below is typical of who shows up to the China Playshops at this time. My experience is that the demographics will change over time and balance itself out. The high number of Community Drum Circle Facilitators in this playshop (for China) is due to the relatively close proximation to Beijing and the Level 2s and 3s attending from that capital city.


16 - School Teachers

18 - Music Teachers

8 - Music Therapists

11 - Working with Special Needs

14 - Psychology Related

14 - Working with kids other than in school

4 - Corporate Trainers

7 - Community Drum Circle Facilitators (5 from Beijing)
The community drum circle populations at the end of our China Playshops have always been around 100-150 people and the all of the events have been dynamic and fun. But this last one had a real sense of flow. Instead of just jumping in and wanting to try new ideas, the facilitators were watching the facilitators who jumped in before them and adding on to the energy already created. That’s because we instigated the “Gate Guard” procedure with a Level 3 holding back the “Jumpers” for a few measures, (10-20 ), and monitoring the group-groove-energy before allowing the next facilitator to go in.

There was also a lot of creative vocal facilitations and dynamic events that transitioned in and out of different rhythm sensibilities. To my surprise, one of the music therapists facilitated Babatunde Olatunji’s Fanga song into the mix. It was a great finish to three playshops in China.

Thanks to REMO for their continued support of these Village Music Circles rhythm-evangelist tours. Nearly every where I go I have a full orchestra kit of REMO drums to use for the trainings and the drum circles.

Next year we are planning four 3-day Playshops as part of our 2017 Asia tour. One Playshop each in Beijing, Xi’an, Hangzhou and Guangzhou.

Spending 3 weeks in one country really helps you to absorb more of it's cultural sensibilities and language, rather than popping in for a weekend and flying out to the next country a few days later.

That is why I am going to enjoy my almost 4-week Japan DrumAbout, which will be my next adventure on this 2016 Asia tour.

Life is a dance - when your sharing your Spirit.   Arthur {]]’;-)