Testimonial from Assaf Soudry

I am a 33-year-old Scotsman who fell into percussion partly by accident in order to have a place in a friends’ band, and thinking ‘how hard can it be?’. Music is my hobby, and although I love playing Cuban percussion in its traditional setting, I view this as a study in order to learn to use these instruments to express myself within a more familiar setting (funk, blues etc).

I was introduced to the complexity of Cuban percussion on my first study trip to Cuba. At that time I had not heard of anybody in the UK providing the kind of material and knowledge available in Cuba, and so I was ecstatic to discover OVM on my return, which offered training that fitted my interest exactly, and of a similar quality to what I had found in Cuba.

My one on one classes in Cuba taught me a great deal of technique and rhythms, but I was particularly attracted to OVM’s offer of the opportunity to play these within an ensemble of drums and singers, thus creating the authentic polyrhythmic atmosphere of a Cuban folkloric setting. Having studied in Cuba for 2 months, I still retained the ‘how hard can it be?’ attitude, and still did not appreciate the depth and breadth of this subject. So I organised to attend one RoC module with the thought that this would be enough, and that I would subsequently complete my plans (which had been brewing) to immigrate to Israel. Following that first module, however, I immediately appreciated the unique opportunity before me and decided to delay my emigration plans and complete the course. Looking back I can say without hesitation that I have not been disappointed with that decision.

The RoC course provided me with a wealth of material, and a week of solid practice every few months after each of which I had clearly improved. I very much appreciated the opportunity to play as an ensemble and to learn the traditional songs too. All we missed were the dances – but we made up our own!

I always looked forward to the modules. I enjoyed the camaraderie and social aspect, finding myself very comfortable with the members of the group and the teacher, and making new friends. I loved the tranquillity of the location and the total separation from everyday life and one week’s dedication to and absorption in my passion.

Without doubt I found that over the duration of the course my playing improved in all aspects; sound, feel, ease, coordination, but also crucially, with the help of an encouraging teacher and peers, my confidence to play before others increased, my self belief / reliance increased, and this lead to having the confidence to play outside the course too.

I was particularly impressed with the teaching style, the general breadth and depth of knowledge of the teacher, his ability to encourage students to tackle inhibitions and difficulties, and his style of play (it is important to learn from someone whose playing you would like to emulate). Raz is an extremely clear and patient teacher who understood all the difficulties that we faced, presenting the material in various formats including traditional musical score. He was always approachable and eager to share. I particularly appreciated receiving written notes on all that we learnt and permission to record.

I judge the course to have been a success for me in that my playing markedly improved during that period, my thirst for more material and technique was always quenched, my interest in the music and traditions was continually encouraged and the material now at my disposal is immense. Should I decide to study further then I am left with a good understanding of the various avenues within Cuban musical tradition that I could follow.

I cannot comment on the value of OVM to the UK market, but I would say that with RoC, OVM do offer a very high quality course and an excellent experience that is, I believe, very rare outside or even within Cuba. The material and technique taught by OVM is very similar to that taught to me in Cuba by a highly respected teacher, and so I am confident that the course provided by OVM is of a very high standard.
Assaf Soudry, Glasgow

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