by Kemit Oladuwa
One of the happiest moments in my life was when I was accepted into the Three Rivers Jenbé Ensemble, or TRJE. It is a group for young musicians aspiring to learn more about themselves and to make lifelong bonds along the way. To join the ensemble back then applicants would have to undergo an audition. My father was the director, so as his own, I felt that I was expected to be more than the other applicants, and have a better understanding of what I was doing there. I remember sitting there in the dull looking studio, with beige and lilac walls with dimmed lights. My father was sitting across from me on his stool like a shadow. He then placed a drum in front of me and said, “Play something, anything you’d like.”
I sat there for a while, in that cold, isolated, metal chair staring blankly at the ceiling. As the loud ventilation system in the background hummed and vibrated, I relaxed a bit and then prepared myself. I then tilted the drum slightly and began to play. When I had finished I had a feeling that the audition had gone well. I then stared my father in his warm but desolate eyes. He said, “That was good; it’ll be fun to work with you.” The way my father displayed those words made them sink deep within me. I felt paralyzed and a smile grew on my face, because for the first time I had been congratulated for making my own decision. That memory was forever engraved inside of me.
For the next eight years, I went to the TRJE performances and rehearsals. I participated with the group and all of its members. I watched members leave and graduate but always keeping our connection, because we had become a family. TRJE was stressful for me, especially because it had an intense commitment regime. On Friday we would practice from 6-9PM, and on Saturday we world practice from 1-5PM. I often found myself wanting to quit the ensemble, and go on and forget about all the things that had happened to me there, but I couldn’t. My father would always say to me “If you don’t want to be here, leave. Do what you want; it’s your choice.” That repeated phrase pushed the guilt of breaking a commitment upon me, and ever since that I’ve used those words as a drive to continue what gives me an understanding, of me.
Now that I look back on those days I realize that sitting in that frightening room was worth it, because through it, I have made moments that I will forever cherish. Though TRJE’s once abundant membership has dwindled, I am still there along with six good friends. Old members tend to come back to re-member themselves with us, and to remember the origin which allowed them to discover themselves. They and I are grateful for the choice we made as applicants and kinsmen of TRJE. That’s why they continue to come back, back into the arms of their sisters, and brothers, treasuring the futures they will live together and the past times that they have already shared. They and I will come back no longer as applicants, but as family.