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April 08, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, April 08, 2005

Rhythm nation -- in Palo Alto Rhythm nation -- in Palo Alto (April 08, 2005)

Zorina Wolf brings her love of TaKeTiNa to the community

by Robyn Israel

Stepping into the United Nations store on Emerson Street, Zorina Wolf spots an exotic-looking stringed instrument on the shelf and immediately starts playing it.

"It's called a kalimba ," she said. "This is like the Walkman of Africa. People everywhere carry them. Rhythm is so connected to their culture."

Rhythm is very much a part of Wolf's life, too. She can regularly be seen drumming in her south Palo Alto neighborhood, carrying a birambau, a Brazilian percussive instrument. It's out of the ordinary, but Wolf doesn't mind.

"It's a lot more fun than staying in my home," she said. "And people should know about rhythm -- we're too isolated. I feel like a goodwill ambassador for the world of rhythm."

Though Wolf is a drummer by training, she also practices a form of rhythm that doesn't even require a percussive instrument. It's called TaKeTiNa (the word is modified from Indian rhythmic syllables used to teach instruments in India), a practice that involves stepping, clapping and vocalizing nonsense syllables.

"It doesn't have intrinsic meaning, so your mind starts to relax, as it has nothing to hook onto," she explained. "And it's not just a rhythm process -- it's rhythm for evolution. It was developed by Austrian Reinhard Flatischler, who believes in the power of transformation, as do I. It's a medicine for this world of ours, which is getting increasingly crazy and complex."

Flatischler, along with his wife, Cornelia Flatischler, will appear on Thursday at the Women's Club of Palo Alto, where they will present an evening of TaKeTiNa. The couple, who are based in Europe, will also lead a weekend workshop at the Women's Club of Palo Alto.

"He's funny and charming and has a wonderful, engaging quality of bringing people into rhythm. It becomes something joyful and fun," said Wolf, who is organizing the event.

A TaKeTiNa gathering will begin with Flatischler playing the berimbau (it supports the voice naturally, Wolf said) and Cornelia playing the surdo (a Brazilian drum that has the deepest bass sound and supports the footsteps). Though participants will first be brought into a harmonious rhythm, Flatischler, as the group leader, will also take people out of the established rhythm -- and into a state of chaos.

"The leader destabilizes the group by calling something on an offbeat, that's opposite to what everyone's been doing with their bodies," Wolf said. They become disoriented and it's very shocking and disturbing to the group but as the leader does this a few times, the group begins to understand that being lost is temporary and they can find their way back to their "rhythmic home."

For Wolf, there is no better training for life.

"This rhythmic process teaches you to stay in these states of confusion and chaos and be comfortable with it. It's OK to not know what is going on," she said.

Flatischler developed TaKeTiNa in the late '60s, after studying drum cultures in India, Korea, Brazil and Cuba for many years. He is currently the leader and composer of MegaDrums, an international performance group that includes tabla master Zakir Hussein, praying drum player Glen Velez and percussionist Airto Moreira. He leads TaKeTiNa workshops annually in the Bay Area.

"Through TaKeTiNa you regain rhythmic abilities that many of us have lost," Flatischler said. "The body is a primal instrument and it guides you. You lose rhythm and then you find it again. You lose rhythm and then you find it again. And you learn at your own tempo. I think that's an important issue today, when everything is dictated from the outside and not by our natural rhythms. That's why we feel so much stress and pressure."

With TaKeTiNa, people are also encouraged, Wolf said, to lie down on the floor and experience the room's vibrations.

"People report that it's like going back to the womb. It's a powerful experience to lie down and feel the rhythm. We're not just learning with our brain. When you lie down you let go. When people feel like it they rejoin the group and usually find their way back to the group very quickly.

Palo Altan Frances Bell has practiced TaKeTiNa with Wolf for six years and will be taking next weekend's workshop.

"The hardest part about the process is letting go of trying to figure out the rhythm," Bell said. "When you finally let go of your mind you're free. You find yourself caught in the rhythm without trying. It can be exhilarating, mesmerizing and calming."

"You know who has the hardest time with this?" Wolf asked. "Drummers -- because their ego is attached to it. They think they know everything about rhythm and they don't. They intellectualize it, but this is body-based. It isn't in your head. This invites you to become something very simple and humble. It isn't about getting it right."

"Getting it right" as a drummer plagued Wolf for years, before she discovered TaKeTiNa in 1996 at an Esalen workshop led by Flatischler. Prior to that, she would take lessons with her drumming teacher, Baba Olatunji, who would instruct her to solo in front of the group. The experience petrified her.

"It sounded like shit. I'd turn white and be frightened to death," she recalled. "You can go away from the (group's) rhythm; it's coming back that's hard. I didn't know something deep in the core of rhythm and no one could teach me. You may be a good technician but if you're not free inside rhythm you can't drum. You have to have that feeling where you're going to leap off the cliff, not know what's going to happen and still be OK with that."

She found what she was looking for in TaKeTiNa.

"I was playing an intricate bell pattern and I started singing something that wasn't connected to the instrument," Wolf recalled. "This came out of stepping and clapping for three days, six hours a day. It was a pathway to rhythm that was free and open and not controlled."

Today Wolf is involved in organizing TaKeTiNa workshops every quarter in Palo Alto. Once a week she also hosts a practice group at her Palo Alto home, where she will play the berimbau and her friend, Karen Jandorf, will play the surdo . To access rhythm even more deeply, she will become her own one-woman band by placing bells on her ankles, castanets in one hand and caxixi (a Brazilian rattle) in another.

"It's great fun but it's also a meditation," she said. "I always thought it would be interesting to go to a BART station and put out a hat. It's wild."

Following her natural rhythm, she said, is key to a healthy life.

"Everything in life is governed by rhythm and the more you get outside that the more dysfunctional you get. I think what's so hard in our culture is that as time speeds up it's easier to leave our rhythms behind," she said. "With coffee, we're always stimulated externally and that takes us away from our natural way of doing things. Being in your own rhythm is like being in yourself."

What: "An Evening of Rhythm, Movement & Chant," featuring Reinhard and Cornelia Flatischler.

Where: Women's Club of Palo Alto, 475 Homer Ave. in Palo Palo Alto.

When: Thursday April 14 at 8 p.m.

Cost: Tickets are $20 at the door; $15 in advance at

Info: For tickets and more information contact Zorina Wolf at (650) 493-8046 or visit

A TaKeTiNa rhythm and trance workshop will take place from April 15 through April 17 at the Women's Club Of Palo Alto. Contact Zorina Wolf at (650) 493-8046 for more details.

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