I believe that every person is an artist and a musician. I have witnessed people subconsciously tapping their foot along to a song after insisting they had no sense of rhythm or musical ability.
I think responding to music is a natural part of what it means to be human on this earth. Melodies and rhythm call to a primal part of our innate being, and we cannot help but respond.
I can tell when a song speaks to the people at the asylum center who I work with on Monday afternoons because they instinctively begin clapping their hands, snapping their fingers, moving their bodies, and repeating words from the song that speak to them.
For example, there is a refrain we wrote together a few weeks ago with the line Never give up, which we repeat twice. Without fail, every time we sing these lines, people call out the word Never with gusto and fervor.
I have to come to see our bodies as natural rhythm instruments, and so I encourage people to tap their feet and clap their hands. Even with this basic percussion participation, I have started to feel that I should not be the sole person playing an instrument beyond my own body. I want people to really believe that they are musicians, participating equally in the creative process regardless of whether they are holding an instrument; however, I think it can be easier to embrace the idea and identity of being a musician with an actual instrument in hand.
In addition, many of the people who participate in Monday afternoon poetry and songwriting know how to play an instrument already, but they were not able to bring these instruments with them when they emigrated. For these reasons, it occurred to me that perhaps I could bring instruments to them.
Last week, I decided that I would create a traveling percussion section that I could bring with me to the Petit-Château each week. I visited several music stores and walked all over downtown Brussels before hitting the jackpot at Azzato Music near Grand Place. There, beneath the glass windows of a music case, were several handheld instruments to create many different kinds of percussive sounds.
Entering a music shop can be financially hazardous for me. I love instruments, and I imagine learning to play as many as possible in my life. Inspired by thoughts of my Petit-Château friends all having the chance to hold and play an instrument, I wanted to purchase far more instruments than my bank account might deem prudent. I was thrilled by the selection of instruments and spent a long time trying out almost single one, over and over again. I am grateful for the patient staff person and other customers for allowing me the space to experiment.
I finally decided on the ones I would purchase, and was thrilled when the staff person offered me an educator discount. My heart and my bag were full as I walked to the metro. When I had to run to catch the tram home, I literally jingled all the way.
I brought my traveling percussion section to the next Monday afternoon poetry and songwriting session at Petit-Château. It was a sunny day, and folks trickled in and out. I was worried no one would want to use the instruments I brought, but one by one people began picking them up to play. By the end of the afternoon, children and adults were clanging and shaking up a musical storm.
I brought the instruments to a poetry open mic the next Friday, and they were a hit there as well. I once heard a colleague say that you were only an artist if you went to art school, and I intend to prove this person wrong at every opportunity. We all possess innate artistic and musical abilities. Our bodies were designed to respond to imagery and rhythm and to create our own unique art.
There was an instant response when I handed out percussion instruments and lyrics sheets to a room full of people at the poetry open mic. This video of the performance is proof that we are all musicians in our deepest, most primal inner selves. I invite you to watch and join in!