Friday, August 20, 2010

Youth Olympic Games- Hosting the Zimbabwean Cultural Booth at the Olympic Village

Over the duration of the Youth Olympic Games, different dates were set aside in the Games Village to showcase the life and culture of the various countries from all the different continents. From the 17-19 Aug, the Games Village showcased the various countries in the African continent. From 17-19 Aug 2010, Victoria School hosted the Zimbabwean booth at the Youth Olympic Village.

We set up the booth to share with athletes and visitors more about Zimbabwean life and culture. At our booth, we taught visitors to say simple greetings in the Shona language, engaged our visitors in simple activities.
Here we see Miss Shyamira getting finer points in Shona pronounciation from visiting Zimbawean athletes at our booth.

At our booth, we also had hands-on activity where we introduced African drumming to our visitors with drums like the Djembes and Congas. Here are some Track & Field athletes from Romania learning some basic hand drumming techniques and telling us abit more about themselves:

All the schools involved really pulled out all the stops to make this a happening event. Our hands-on drumming circle proved to be a great hit and generated alot of crowd interest such that I was hardly able to leave our booth during peak hours (more on that later). But in the lull moments, I tried my best to capture the other performances and activities that were taking place.

Here, a few booths down from us was the Tunisian booth hosted by Swiss Cottage Sec, which who brought down their dance troupe to enchant the audience:

Throughout the day, there were also lots of activities for visitors and guests to try out. One of my favourites (and the VS boys too) was the circus arts group that came to let our boys try their hands at twirling, juggling, plate balancing, diablo whirling:

Where Victoria captured the hearts of the visitors was in our ability to engage with them through our walk-in, hands-on drum circle. Right outside our booth, we had laid out some African drums which me and the boys took turns to lead and facilitate rhythm structures for the crowd to join in.
In previous posts, I mentioned how VS had conceived of this idea and prepared for this by sending me for a Drum Circle Facilitation course in Jun. The idea was use traditional african rhythms as a platform for visitors to engage in musical dialogue with each other.

We were most pleased whenever we saw members of Team Singapore drop by! With many present and old Victorians doing us and the nation proud by presenting the country in their respective sports, the VS booth soon became a gathering point for them to touch base with friends, teachers, juniors alike. Here are some Team Singapore Soccer players with us jamming away.

I loved the way we infused the African rhythms with a touch of beats the 'Jalan Besar Stadium' :)

Later on in the day, Team Singapore's Handball players came by. One of their players, Clement Choong, is a Victorian who graduated last year in the first batch of students taking GCE PE. Their solid drumming and team-work caught the attention of Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister of Education, who was touring the booths on that day.

Soon the beats and vibrancy of the drumming started to catch the attention of athletes whose own cultural heritage had infused them with a strong sense of rhythm. This soon led to opportunities for rhythmic dialogue across various cultures. In this session, the Brazilian athletes had infused a strong samba flavour mixed with strong pounding bass lines from the Argentinians:

For others, they just took this as an opportunity to jam with each other and have some fun. Here we have the Egypt team, who just came by and asked "Hey, give us 5 mins and we show you some of our music" So I said "OK." And they proceeded to rock:

The beauty of the drum circle concept is that it allows people from different walks of life to gather together and achieve a common understanding through rhythm. And the secret to this is in being musically trained, the secret to each sessions success is the ability for us to listen to each other and try and engage in meaningful dialogue with each other using a spontaneous rhythmical language which transcends the limits of speech. Here we see the boys from Montenegro gather with us to talk about their upcoming football match and just jam with us. In this clip, we can see that we are all trying to sense each other's rhythms and timing and learning to find a common way to play with each other:

However, we were not the only group to move the crowd with our groove. During the afternoons, a shrill whistle would pierce the air and the Stompers from Punggol Sec who were hosting Swaziland who take their turn.
Using trash cans, bins and other recycled materials, they took their inspiration from the performance group STOMP to churn out some awesome beats. Where VS african drum circle was free-flowing and spontaneous, Punggol's Swaziland Stompers were precise and spot-on with their sharp stop cuts, timing changes and sheer energy!

When our boys saw them, we were awestruck. In fact we felt a bit intimidated that we would be performing and playing next to such a tight group. But the true Olympic spirit shone true. Each time our groups passed each other, we would wave and nod. At first we were quite shy...ha ha. But each time they perform, some of our boys would go and watch; then when we perform, they would come over. Then suddenly the magic words were spoken- "Er... Excuse me, can we join in?"
And then what followed was magic:

2 groups of boys from different schools and different back grounds meeting together to find a common understanding. As hosts for visiting athletes from different nations, I believe that the example we set is crucial to showing our committment to Excellence, Friendship and Respect. It was truly a proud moment for the teachers from both schools when we saw our boys spontaneously develop friendship and respect for each other and unite to give a great drumming performance without any prior rehearsal. On Thu 19th Aug, which was our last day at the village, the alchemy achieved by our 2 schools had attracted members from other booths which had brought along their own percussion instruments.

So at 5pm, we faciliated a massive jam for all the student percussionists involved in the village booth presentations. I tried to facilitate the session by assigning parts and show casing different sections of the circle.
The chemistry was so tight by now that I could insert calls and responses with no problems as well as vary and improvise the rhythms by introducing accent beats and ended with a superb stop-cut.

At the end of the day, that what Olypism is about.
Sharing and giving of ourselves. When the crowd had dispersed, the VS boys and the boys from Punggol sat down together to try out our african drums; we on the other hand we so impressed with their self-made instruments. The boys explained to me how they used ballon sticks as drum sticks, how to drill holes in the trash bins to attach drum skins and tuning lugs.

Seeing them seated with each other, learning from each other made the effort and exhaustion of thse 3 days all worth it.

Each and everytime I undertake student projects for the school, I'm always reminded that it is through events like this that Victorians come through and truly make ourselves something more- Empowering ourselves and others in the process.

I am glad that in my time in VS I have had so much opportunity to discover myself and growth together with the students. I have given you all my best and gotten so much more in return.
Wherever we are, wherever we go, may we carry Victoria's fame and our intent to keep her flag unfurled.

1 comment:

Old Boy said...

Hi Mr Siow,
Is it possible to take a group picture of the Victorians and former Victorians taking part at the YOG?
There is an old group picture of the Victorians who took part at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics in one of the old school magazines. (7 Victorians represented S'pore then in athletics, basketball, hockey and water-polo).