Music Entrepreneur and Founder of Making Rainbow Playgroup
Music entrepreneur and new mum, Koh Ching Ngee, 30, runs her own music engagement centre, and is a drum circle presenter and facilitator. Koh is a Dika College alumnus who has kept close ties with her alma-mater. At the 2018 Dika College Early Childhood Education symposium, she presented a drum circle interlude, and at the 2019 Dika College Special Education symposium, Koh facilitated a Drum Circle Facilitator session. Here she shares, how her love affair with drum circles has revealed to her the beauty of making music as a community, and why she is so “happy and fulfilled” today.
As a child I was the envy of many. I started singing when I was three and by the time I was six, I was as they would say, “cutting albums”. My weekends were spent either at recording, performance or promotional sessions. Who wouldn’t want to be me? Well, I didn’t want to be me! What many would see as a glamourous life, I found daunting and worse of all lonely. I would have given anything to be like my friends, who spent their weekends on vacations with their family; but I could not say anything, so I went along.
My childhood experiences play a key role in many of the decisions that I would and will continue to make as an adult. I have a one year old little girl now, and the only thing I want for her is to be able to enjoy her childhood. I want her to experience the joy of play and the freedom to discover the talents within her, without fear or pressure. I want her to experience life in a community instead of being sequestered into a corner to perfect a skill. I want her to be the difference that she wants to see, and for that to happen, I knew that I had to step up and make a difference.
Two years into my Mass Communications studies, I broke it to my parents that I was going to leave the programme. It was no surprise that they were dismayed by my decision, but amidst the tears, I told them that I wanted to pursue something which I felt would have a bigger purpose. I wanted to be an early childhood educator.
My time at Dika College will always hold some of my most memorable memories. It was a time for me to discover myself and explore my potential. Needless to say, my favourite subject was “Young Children and the Arts: Music, Movement and Drama”. I am continually amazed at how music can be so engaging and enriching.
Three years ago, a defining moment happened. I came across a Drum Circle Facilitator Workshop. It sounded so intriguing, I had to give it a go. The experience was life-changing. Something just clicked. It was the dynamics that I had missed all my life, making music as a community.
Today I run my own centre “Making Rainbow Playgroup” in Bandar Bukit Raja, Klang Selangor Darul Ehsan. The centre offers music and movement, storytelling and sensory play time sessions for babies, toddlers and young children. I also run music appreciation sessions at kindergartens and facilitate drum circles. My little girl follows me on my rounds and I think, in most part, she enjoys the sessions. Drum circles are refreshing and invigorating. On one hand it provides children the technical competency to artfully handle musical instruments, but more importantly it teaches social skills and etiquette. The most beautiful aspect of a drum circle is that it is a great avenue for us to practice inclusivity. Everyone can and everyone should come together to participate in a drum circle.
There are three rules one must observe in a drum circle. Firstly listen to your own instrument. Secondly, listen to your friend’s instruments and thirdly, smile. I have witnessed children grow with the experience; from the apprehension of handling the instruments, to clamouring to volunteer to participate. They also become “music directors” of sorts, suggesting fresh new lyrics, movements and rhythms. Just when you thought that you had everything figured out, they always have something brand new.
The djembe drums have opened my mind to so much more of what the music world offers. The experience of playing the drums transcend beyond music, into the realm of embracing a global culture and community. A djembe, pronounced “jembe” is a rope-tuned skin-covered goblet drum that is played with bare hands. The name djembe means “everyone gathers together in peace” and it defines the drum’s purpose. Do we have to use just djembe drums? The answer is “no”, any other instrument that produces a similar sound can be used.
To me, music is a collective effort. Music has an infinite nature of energy, and when we play it collectively, as one community, the possibilities are endless. I hope to share this with as many people as possible, and I hope that they will in turn, share the joy with their communities. As for me, I have enrolled with the Mandeng Djembe Academy and I hope to be a professional djembe player one day. No doubt it will be challenging, but it will be one challenge that I will joyfully take on.