Fara Tolno is a master drummer from Guinea. He played lead djembe for the national performance troupe of Guinea, called Les Merveilles de Guinea. He currently travels the US teaching and performing. He put on two shows this weekend at the Eccles Community Art Center in Ogden. Rita got tickets to last night's show for her, Todd, and Alec. (Kenna and I were at the Lights concert.)
Fara doesn't travel with a large group, so he asked some of the local drummers to play for his show. One of the people he asked was Todd's drum teacher, Andy Jones. When Andy does a show he will often ask Todd to play, but this wasn't Andy's show so nothing was mentioned to Todd. With no expectation to play, Todd didn't take his drum to the class, nor did he wear his traditional West African clothes.
The first half of the show featured Fara on the djembe. Needless to say, he was amazing. For the second half of the show, Fara performed West African dance. He went backstage between the two halves so that he could change into his dance clothes. He asked Andy and the rest of the drummers to perform without him while he changed.
Before Andy and the others played, Andy pointed to the far side of the audience where Todd was sitting. Todd looked around to see where Andy was pointing. Then he realized that Andy was pointing at him and wanted him to go on stage to play. Todd got out of his seat, walked across the stage, grabbed Andy's spare djembe and started to play. There were three men dressed in traditional clothes, and Todd wearing basketball shorts and a T-shirt.
They played the traditional West African rhythm known as Kuku. Each of the men took turns playing a solo part while Todd and the others played the standard rhythm parts. After the last one was done with his solo, Todd leaned to him and said "Should I solo?" The man gave Todd a little shrug that said "Sure."
That was when Todd hit one out of the park.
He started to improvise like only Todd can. Andy's drum is not like Todd's, and Todd had only played it once before. It's a different size than Todd's, but that isn't the main difference. What sets it apart from Todd's djembe is that around the head it has sege-sege, which are metal shakers. Todd didn't let that slow him down for a second. In fact, he incorporate the shakers into his solo routine, occasionally hitting them with his hands. I've never seen that done and I don't know where he got the idea.
Todd's hands were a blur he was going so fast, incorporation different solo phrases that he'd learned. During his routine someone in the back of the crowd let out a yelp and soon everyone was applauding. There was another round of applause once Todd's solo was finished. They were the only two times the crowd applauded during the middle of a song.
|Todd and Fara Tolno|
After the show, twenty different people came up to Todd to tell him how well he'd done. They didn't carry him off the field on their shoulders, but that's about how it felt.