The Old Rockstar, the Young Phenom, and the Power of Joy
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
I've been listening to a lot of Foo Fighters lately, especially since the tragic passing of their long-time drummer Taylor Hawkins. And it reminded me of the inspiring and entertaining "epic" drum battle between (at the time) 10 year-old Nandi Bushell and former Nirvana drummer and current Foo Fighters leader, Dave Grohl. (If you haven't heard about this amazing story, here's a good summary piece - https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/09/arts/music/dave-grohl-nandi-bushell-drums.html ).
The short story is that Nandi made a name for herself on YouTube with skilled and enthusiastic drum covers of popular songs and then challenged Dave Grohl to a drum battle in which Grohl admits that Nandi "kicked my butt." The two became virtual friends (Grohl wrote a song about her) and eventually (when Covid let up a bit) Nandi came to the States and performed at a Foo Fighters show. There were a lot of cool things about this story including:
Turns out Dave Grohl -- who has a reputation as a kind, intelligent, and down-to-earth person -- really seems to be all those things.
The internet and social media can actually have a positive impact on people's lives ... sometimes.
A famous, old white guy from the US and a young, multi-ethnic girl from Britain can hit it off and be buddies.
Though rap and hip-hop are pretty much indisputably the most commercially successful and creatively exciting musical forms on today's scene, rock still has something left in the tank.
There's a lot more, but there's something specific that caught my attention in this story -- and that's Nandi's passion for drumming and the utter joy that she seems to have when playing. Take a look at the below clip. You should watch the whole thing to get a real sense of what I'm talking about (come on, it's only 4 minutes!), but for you tiny attention span, Tick Tockers out there make sure to watch the chorus at 1:30 and the finale at 3:20.
The thing that is inescapable and what really draws you in is Nandi's pure joy in absolutely thrashing that drum set. Watch the entire clip and look at nothing but her face and you'll be reminded of what real joy looks like. And you'll see it in all her clips -- so much so that she can't seem to contain it and literally screams with joy at various times. Sometimes she screams the lyrics and sometimes she just screams. It's so primal and pure and beautiful that it makes me feel jealous (I'll have what she's having!), and a little silly for being so grown-up and straightlaced. When's the last time I screamed with joy like that?
It made me wonder, is Nandi so joyful because she's a great drummer, or is she a great drummer because she's so joyful? Maybe it's some of both, but I have a hard time believing she'd be anywhere near as good if she didn't have that level of passion. And then it got me thinking how rarely we let ourselves be that joyful, and how we squeeze the joy out of so many things by focusing on whether we're good at it or not -- and especially whether we're "naturally" good at it or "talented." I kinda think "talent" is an evil word and something we hide behind for fear that we might not meet our own silly expectations. You can always blame it on the fact that you "weren't born with that talent." But suppose we just focused on the joy? And especially suppose we did that with kids? Maybe the whole goal should be to scream with unadulterated joy ... like Nandi.
What do you think? Feel free to completely disagree! Differences of opinion are the heart of creativity -- and so is respect for those differences!
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