Learning by Playing

| November 30, 2010

Background

Traveling through the subways in NYC, you often hear the underground echoing with live music. Sometimes I can’t wait to get away from it, but often I am surprised by the quality of the musicianship. Where did these talented artists come from? Where did they learn their trade? Born in Tunisia, Najib Bahri is an accomplished percussionist who specializes in playing the Darbouka and invented the electronic Darbouka. He first learned the instrument from his uncle and pursued his interests by attending the Tunisian National Conservatory of Music, and later, while studying in France, developed a taste for performance in Parisian nightclubs and other venues.

Najib believes that music can teach people how to relax which is why he spends much of his free time playing for the public in NYC’s subway system. He is part of the organized transit musicians called MUNY (Music Under New York) which is an organization of about 100 musicians. Over the years, he has researched different world rhythms and accompanied some of the most prestigious musicians of the Arab world.

Teaching with Video

When does learning happen? The producers of this video allowed a routine moment that many of us would ignore–hearing someone drumming in the subway–lead to a learning experience. How many learning opportunities do we skip by each day? What would it mean for us to listen to John Dewey’s words in Democracy and Education and try to learn from “all of the contacts of life”?

Excerpt from video

“When you breathe the beat, you learn it when you say it. But when you just play without knowing or saying it breathing it, your tempo will go up and down so the beat will make you stress at certain times. I feel so relaxed and that’s why I go to the subways to see those people who are uptight and make them laid back and relaxed.”