The pulsating rhythm of the beat causes our bodies to freely wriggle, dance and move about within the great circle of drums. I close my eyes trying to envision what it must be like in the faraway land of Africa with its natives dancing to heartfelt beats as they echo towards the sky. The pounding of the drums puts me in a trance. I am lost in my own world until the session comes to an end and a new silence fills the room. “The roots of hip hop come straight out of Africa,” I hear the lead drummer saying. Through his teachings, he fills my head with a new awareness and I am so thrilled to learn that this controversial type of music has much more to it than what is often negatively portrayed through mainstream media sources.
The week-long seminar at the Florida Center for Teachers is more informative and invigorating than I ever imagined. It is an honor to be selected to attend because the finalists are chosen from many dedicated and talented teachers found throughout the state of Florida. Although there are many interesting courses of study to choose from, I take a risk and decide upon a topic that I am least familiar with "Hip Hop, Hoops and Homies." The fabulous leader of our group is an outgoing, vivacious, and extremely talented African American Poet named Phyllis. Throughout the voyage, she takes a fellow group of teachers and me on a journey to worlds I never knew existed.
Following the mesmerizing performances of the drummers, we travel to a tiny hall where expert players reveal to us the secrets of scratching. This amazing experience sheds a new light on what I previously thought were a few random wiggles of record making contact with the needle. Never did I consider the dexterity that goes into the orchestration of those sounds which accompany a rapper’s repertoire of rhymes and phrases--together creating a message mixed with music.
In the days that follow, we voyage to underground poetry houses where the power of the word driven through the microphone is a weapon in its own right. Quick-tongued poets jab at each other as words fly from their lips and dodge across the room. It is a contest of wit, where poetry comes straight from the experiences of one’s soul and not a piece of paper.
On our final evening, we venture to an all out hip hop extravaganza. The contestants are from all walks of life. At one point, I meet a group of nine young rappers who work in harmony creating all of their own background music using only their vocal cords and bodies. We listen to new rappers who rely on the heavy, loud pounding bass and watch others who encourage audience participation. Even though the competition is fierce, the underlying brotherhood and respect is quite impressive.
Through these experiences, I have developed an insight about the important issues which are the very foundation of hip hop. I understand the passion and expression behind the words. Yes--these words do have meaning--more so than the average person will ever know. Fortunately, this never ending assortment and display of talent is strong enough to burst the bubble of narrow thinking that made up of my vision of what hip hop is all about. I am deeply aware that not all rap is even remotely the same and these magnificent encounters cause my prior beliefs about hip hop to be forever transformed
As our retreat comes to an end, I am enlightened with awareness that I must find ways to make use of my newly acquired knowledge. I form a pact with myself to make it my duty to educate future generations about steering away from mainstream sources, venturing down roads that are not so well paved, and even creating new paths of their own. I have also learned that instead of making judgments based upon minimal facts and knowledge, we need more insight into our own narrow ways of thinking and must try to see other ways in which we can broaden our horizons and share our enlightenment and new ideas with the world.
It was my first real exposure into the history of it all and the masterful thinking that goes into it. Through many field trips, speakers and performances, I got to the know different genres, and realized that there is so much more talent out there besides the stuff we hear on public radio."
Bob Bryan / Loida Mariano
Bryan World Productions, LLC.
PO Box 74033
Los Angeles, CA 90004
Tel. Number: 323 / 856-9256
Fax Number: 323 / 856-0855