2 Jul 2013

The Great Drumming Circle of Life - a love letter to technology

Let me tell you a story.

When he was very little, about eight I think, my brother was given a drums kit as a present. My mum wasn't entirely thrilled, but he was ecstatic. We still have pictures of 3 years old him playing with his toddler plastic kit; I guess my parents should've seen it coming. So my mum thanked the present giver for his generous, if not excessively loud gift, and scoured the Internet for someone to teach little Alex. She found a nice guy in his late teens who'd come to the house on his skateboard and show my bro how to bang his toms, and he got better, and everyone got happier.

The bro back in the day, when his kit was so new it hasn't made it to his room yet

Fast forward almost ten years. My brother still plays drums, and at the end of every year, his music school puts on several gigs for all kids to perform songs they rehearse during the year. Kids pick the songs at the beginning of the year, a way to get them more involved and motivated. My little brother, now 17, picked a song by the French band Shaka Ponk, one of his favourite bands — they're so cool he actually got the whole family hooked!

And man, the world must be a really tiny thing, because Shaka Ponk's current drummer is none else than that teenager on his skateboard.

But the best part is, I got to watch him play it live.

I got to see him play a gig live in a small town in Western France while sitting in my living-room in London, England; thanks to my dad deciding to Skype in from the audience; thanks to his phone network being strong enough to handle it; and thanks to my Internet connection staying live for ten minutes straight for once.

The Internet and all these brilliant little pieces of technology allowed me to be part of an event that my family and I have been attending for years, and watch my brother complete what I shall from now on refer to as the Great Drumming Circle of Life. So yes, you guessed it, I teared up a little bit. I suddenly had a lot of these things called feelings and got stuck in a warm bubble of gratefulness for a few days.

So many things are blamed every day on the Internet and technology. From children violence, procrastination and broken marriages to back aches, conspiracies and poor work performances, it always has a role to play in them. What people seem to often forget or at least downplay, in my opinion, is the other side of the coin. Internet connects people. I really like John Clang's Being Together series of Skype family portraits.

Being Together - John Clang
Clang told The Atlantic: "I am marking the time for these families, enabling them to remember these strange moments of togetherness with the technology presently available. The picture (...) embraces the intimacy and closeness of a family, no matter how far apart they are."

In a strange manner, but a way that I think many expats have experienced, distance has brought me closer to my family. When I get to see them, I enjoy the moments as much as I can because I rarely know when I'll be home next. And when I get to skype them, or receive an email from my mum showing off her new shoes, or wake up to a video message on Whatsapp to wish me happy birthday, I feel a little tingle of sadness that we're apart.

But first and foremost, I'm grateful that technology makes it possible for us to be together for big things and small things and everyday things.

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