The Beat Goes On

By Joshua Eckersley

Kai Tipping is a man of many talents. As director of Vibe Life, this regional drum guru encapsulates the free spirit mentality of the Bellingen arts community through his commitment to cultural and spiritual growth. Very few locals would not recognise the impact that Kai has made through his workshops, parades and live performances across the Mid North Coast and beyond.

As the son of a poet and documentary film maker, Kai’s introduction to world music came from travelling and living abroad at an early age. His keen interest in music helped him ease into his surroundings, Kai tells us; “I had an interest in yidaki digeridoo in school, and my dad could play, so it was one of my first instruments. Overseas, people would ask me about it so I ended up playing it a bit. Dad also had an instrument called a kalimba, a thumb piano, and I remember loving that and he would lullaby me to sleep with the kalimba. I think I heard these sounds in the womb.”

After years of teaching literally thousands of people, Kai has established himself as Bellingen’s resident rhythmic expert, running countless workshops covering everything from Brazilian Carnivale to Trinidadian steel pan and African drums. Alongside these musical styles, Kai’s teachings also contain a reverence and a respect for different cultures, and for the human spirit. It is Kai’s belief that bringing people together through music and through creative expression lifts people’s energy, essence and their vitality.

As Kai tells us “My purpose on the planet is to deepen people’s connection to themselves, to the earth, and the people around them. To lift the vibration higher. When the drums come to the pub we blow people away with the energy of the group. People come to me for months afterwards saying oh my God, I astral-travelled listening to you guys. The ultimate reason I do this is to create the highs and lows, and lift the spirit.”

Like many businesses and artists, the recent COVID-19 restrictions have forced an adaptation to how he operates. For Kai this meant moving to online classes for a period of time to allow students to continue learning in a safe environment. Standard workshops are now back up and running (and filling up fast), but the pandemic has taught Kai to roll with the punches and keep moving onwards and upwards. “I still have a couple of online classes every week, so it (COVID-19) has launched me into the techno-sphere, but I feel like the organic dwelling in the bio-sphere is where I like to hang. I know there is always suffering and my heartfelt condolences go to all the people that are suffering, but we have to keep our spirit strong. I accept that we are out of control, that there are constant changes, and we adapt to the constant changes.”

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