Emmanuel Gallant attended the free Muhtadi International Drumming Festival at Woodbine Park earlier this month. At its 14th annual edition, he found a sparkling musical celebration, full of admirable multicultural performances presented by a diverse groups of drummers. See YouTube videos below.
I am having my Peruvian friend over for the weekend. He has never had the occasion to really experience Toronto so far. I take a look at the multicultural blog to check what’s going on in the city for this very sunny afternoon. Instantly, an event catches my eye: Muhtadi International Drumming Festival. What a great occasion to introduce my friend to Toronto’s cultural diversity! No doubts, this is where we have to go.
As we arrive at the northern entrance of Woodbine Park, a light wind blows from the shores of Lake Ontario. It allows us spectators to appreciate the Samba Squad’s Brazilian show. Thirty observers stand in front of the stage but most of the others are seated. At first, they are a little bit reserved. Most are just looking at the band, but all then progressively let themselves flow with the stirring rhythm of drums. With a great deal of pleasure I take part in the samba lesson given by a member of the band. She abandons her mates on stage to become one with us.
After this fantastic appetizer we head to the main stage, located in the center of the park. A multitude of booths are all over the place. Bracelets, tee shirts, necklaces, poutines… a lot of different trinkets from various regions of the world are available for sale. They are mainly from Africa and the Caribbean islands. As we get closer to the main stage, we see all the spectators gathered around (much more numerous than at the previous stage). They are smiling and fondly looking at the performer. A little Middle-Eastern-looking child – 6 years-old maximum – is carefully playing a drum along with two adults. He is the star of the moment, but he obviously doesn’t know it. When it comes time to say goodbye, he turns his back to the public and waves to the musicians. We applaud with cheers. Hilarious.
When I look around me, I understand what the spirit of Muhtadi is about. It is as if he has said, “all music lovers are welcome here to freely express themselves”. Indeed, apart from the two stages, we meet people here and there, playing drums individually or in small groups. I personally get really delighted by the performance of another very young player, African looking, who seems to be experiencing djembe drums for the first time in his life. It is not just the quality of the music that amazes me. It is more the communication between this boy and his relatives. Most are turned to him, beaming broad grins and maintaining constant eye contact. Together as one, they are enjoying his performance.
By the end of the afternoon, we are lucky enough to attend the show orchestrated by Thomas Muhtadi himself, with his band “The World Drummers”. It is composed of musicians from the four corners of the earth. As they are playing, I see that they really complement each other. As you can read on the website of the festival, “drumming together [seems to] have established community bond allowing [them] to connect on a level where there exists only magic, enchantment and joy”.
This is a feeling shared by my friend Luis who sums up this event in these terms: “A power of rhythms that breaches nationalities, boundaries and colours, as we are one on the others and the others on one self”. A nice sentiment.
Video of Little Boy Drumming. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cmsNhJdiE3Q&feature=em-upload_owner
Video of Samba Squad Lesson. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RgTGmO8OL3I&feature=youtu.be
Many thanks Emmanuel. I hope other readers will send us reports of their multicultural adventures too. Ruth.