Unusual Hobbies by Karen Phelps
NAME: Bo Hermans
DAY JOB: Architect
HOBBY: Samba musician
Bo Hermans had been interested in Latin American music ever since he lived in that part of the world while on his OE but it was not until a friend joined Auckland group AK Samba that he was “blown away” by the sound. Two rehearsals later he was performing with the band at gigs.
Samba is a Brazilian style of music that incorporates African and Portuguese rhythms. It lends itself well to being used as a type of marching music and can also involve singing and dancing (those who went to see the last K Road parade might remember the infectious beat as AK Samba whistled, danced and stomped their way down the tarmac). There are lots of different styles within the genre. The AK Samba group is a batucadaor percussion group:
“We also fuse drum and bass, hip hop, reggae and funk to make the music more New Zealand contemporary. It’s the sort of music you’ve got to move to. I chose to play the tambarim (a type of small drum) as it gives me the freedom to move while I play.”
The novelty with samba music seems to be the fact that training is not essential and anyone can literally turn up and join in. Although Bo did have previous musical training when he went along to his first session he says he literally picked an instrument out of a bag and got to work.
“Having a sense of rhythm obviously helps but I think we could train anyone. At our rehearsals we do a lot of exercises to help timing, improvisation skills and technique.”
He does add that because the band has been going for over two years the arrangements and techniques have got more sophisticated so the group has also started running beginners courses to help people learn the basics.
At AK Samba performances there might be between 15-30 musicians. In Brazil there can be over 100 people in a performance group. Instruments commonly used include snare drums, agogo bells and shakers.
Nothing is written down; knowledge is passed orally between musicians:
“There is always someone else playing your part as well in each percussion groove. This fits in well with my lifestyle (I have young children) because if I can’t make a rehearsal there is always someone else who can step in.”
A music leader plays a special drum called a repinique. The leader plays particular rhythms, holds up the drumsticks or blows a whistle to signal to the rest of the band the direction the music is heading. The dynamic of the music –softer, faster or slower etc – can be changed according to the mood of the musicians and audience.
“That’s part of the magic of samba – you never really know what is going to happen next. Samba music links you with something very down to earth – the rhythms reflect your heartbeat and it encourages people to dance and feel good. It’s about communicating with people in a non-verbal way. Samba music is a great release. For me there’s something very therapeutic about hitting something with a stick!”
AK Samba practices each Monday night 7.30pm – 9.30pm at the Auckland Bowling Club, Grafton Mews, Stanley Street, Auckland. Anyone is welcome to come and observe. For more information contact AK Samba, Tel. (09) 4821486 or 021 168 0649, email@example.com, www.aksamba.org.nz
NAME: Louisa Talbot
DAY JOB: Shop owner
HOBBY: Kimono dressing
It takes years of intensive study and you know you’re ready to become a teacher when you can perform the whole process in five minutes or less. There is a lot more to the art form of kimono dressing than meets the eye, says Wellington shop owner Louisa Talbot.
She initially started her hobby while working in Japan and playing enka, a type of traditional Japanese folk blues.
“While performing enka wearing a kimono adds to the traditional atmosphere. The first time I wore one, even though I didn’t know how to put it on correctly, I felt so glamorous.”
It took a while for Louisa to find a suitable instructor who could teach her both traditional and modern Kimono dressing style.
“I would go to my teacher’s house and we would dress mannequins, me and her in kimonos. It was like playing with big dollies really.”
Louisa likens kimonos to wearable art, as many are hand stitched and embroidered. The design, fabric and co-ordination of the kimono are seasonally referenced.
“The obi (sash) is the difficult bit – if you get it wrong your kimono falls off when you walk down the street. I was also taught disaster management techniques - like how to remedy the situation when you go to a party and realise something is slipping!”
During kimono dressing everything is laid out in the order in which it will be put on.
“It’s sort of like yoga, you have to get into different positions to put the garments on. It certainly helps with your flexibility, which I think is what has helped the older generation in Japan live for so long.”
No Western-style underwear is worn. Firstly a kimono of cotton is put on which can be washed if necessary. This is followed by a white silk underwear kimono layer, which a fashionable modern wearer will leave to hang slightly below the outer kimono line.
“It’s sort of like the fashion of having your underwear show above your jeans. In Japanese wearing the underwear Kimono layer like this is called misepan or visible underwear.”
Lastly the outer kimono is put on tied with an obi. Due to the stiffness of the obi Louisa says kimonos encourage good posture and also keep the wearer warm. Kimonos are also light and comfortable once you are used to wearing one. Hair is worn up as the neck is considered the sexiest part of the body. Accessories include split toe socks and the traditional jandal (Japanese sandal). Kimonos can range in price from approximately $200 - $30,000.
“When wearing a kimono you definitely have to move differently. Small pigeon toed steps are the elegant way to walk.”
Like bad hair days Louisa says she has bad kimono days when nothing goes quite right. She now has her technique down to 8 minutes. To complement her hobby she has also learned ikebana (Japanese flower arranging) and traditional Japanese tea ceremony.
Louisa owns a kimono and antique store and walking to work wearing a kimono she admits she gets some curious glances:
“People either stare or pretend not to see me. Japanese people often come up and talk to me or point and giggle. For me wearing a kimono is like being on the stage in every day life.”
For more information on Kimono dressing contact Louisa at Three Second Goldfish, cnr Wakefield and Taranaki Streets, Wellington. (04) 8033474. Obi tying lessons are held on Friday nights.
NAME: Paul Durling
DAY JOB: Computer Technician
HOBBY: Mountain Boarding
At the age of 32 Paul Durling reckons he’s “an old bugger in the sport” but that hasn’t stopped him from pursuing his latest hobby –mountain boarding (also called all terrain boarding).
“The young ones give me hell and my family thinks I’m too old for it. But it’s something I enjoy so I’m not going to give it up just because of what other people say.”
Paul has always been into long boards (a type of skateboard) but it was late last year that he first came into contact with mountain boarding – a relatively new sport for this country. He gave it a go at mountain boarding park Gravity Hill in Taupo and was immediately hooked.
“I’m a bit of an adrenalin junkie so I loved it. With long boards you can only go on the road but with mountain boards you can also go on grass and dirt. I had to go to a wedding that night and I was in a hell of a state with scratches all over me.”
First seen around 10 years ago the sport has been described as a blend of skateboarding and snowboarding with a little surfing thrown in. Encompassing freeride, freestyle and extreme elements, mountain boarding is not for the faint hearted. Obviously this means the boards have to be strong. They are about twice as big as a normal skateboard and have 4 large pneumatic tyres on suspensions. Straps hold the users feet in place during jumps. Some mountain boards have brakes to make it easier to slow down and stop.
Anywhere there is grass or dirt makes a good place to mountain board. Favourite spots in Auckland include the Auckland Domain and various skate parks. Paul says he prefers to calculate the risks rather than adopting a gung ho mentality. He tries to go mountain boarding at least once a week – more in summer when conditions are more conducive.
Mountain boarders jump over obstacles and the better boarders will do 360-degree jumps in the air. Paul says he is not really into tricks but can do a 180 degree jump.
Boarders expect to fall off. This means body armour – elbow and kneepads, shin protection, helmets and leather gloves – is essential. Unlike skateboarding Paul also thinks this makes the sport non-ego driven:
“Put it this way - you can’t wear your best skate clothes because they’d get ripped to pieces in five minutes.”
For more information: www.mountainboarding.co.nz
NAME: David Solomann
DAY JOB: Computer Technician
The couple that knits together stays together seems to be David Solomann’s motto. He spends most nights sitting on the couch knitting with his wife Debbie.
“It’s quite good [having a husband who knits] except that he’s stolen my needles and wool. Now I’ve got nothing to knit with!” laughs Debbie.
“Look up trademe.co.nz, there’s plenty of wool on that,” suggests David facetiously after admitting looking up the website himself that day in search of knitting bargains.
Taught by his grandmother David first started knitting as a child:
“When I got sick mum used to drop me off at nana’s. She was a very arty crafty sort of person and a very good knitter. At school though I never really let on that I liked it!”
It was the arrival of first baby Ashleigh a couple of months ago that prompted him to take up knitting again.
“Basically I was sitting here and both mum and Debs were knitting so I thought why not pick up some needles and have a go? It’s quite relaxing to come home at the end of the day and have a little task to do that is not too mentally taxing. I like sitting down and blobbing out in front of the TV while still doing something. It’s also nice to have someone to knit for, an end goal for the project.”
David is naturally a ‘tight’ knitter and thinks getting the tension right is the most difficult part of his hobby. It has taken him about a week to finish a delicate white woollen scarf (he never knits acrylic) on small size 4 needles and he is now knitting a matching pair of mittens for Ashleigh. Debbie is a bit annoyed as she thinks they are better than the mittens she knitted for their baby in her husband’s soccer team colours:
“Knitting has become sort of become like a competition between us,” she smiles.
David advises that the best way to learn to knit is to get someone to show you, particularly the special stitches. Both David and Debbie’s mums are avid knitters and have helped teach the couple.
Although David thinks it is often more expensive to knit adult clothes than buy something in the shops he says because baby clothes are so small there are cost savings to be made. He admits to also enjoying the odd bit of cross-stitch and sewing when he gets the chance.
So what will baby Ashleigh think when she gets old enough to realise her dad has knitted some of her baby clothes? David laughs outrageously:
For more information:
NAME: Natalie Sisson
DAY JOB: Brand Manager
When Natalie Sisson first heard about Ultimate she had no idea what it was. It was not until she started dating an Ultimate player that Natalie, a self-confessed sports fanatic, was tempted to give the sport a go herself.
“I was a bit nervous because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. I ran around like a blue arsed fly, which I have since found out you don’t have to do! You think it is easy to throw a Frisbee on a beach but in Ultimate there are all sorts of throws – backhands, forehands, overheads. But because everyone is there for the love of the sport they are very keen to help you learn and practice throws.”
Since then she has played in a social team every Wednesday night. The team mixes beginners and more experienced players, which Natalie says provides good opportunities for learning.
Ultimate is a real team sport. Teams comprise 7 players, which throw the Frisbee (or sportsdisc as it is known in Ultimate) to each other down the field. It is not unlike netball in that no physical contact is allowed between players and players cannot take many steps with the sportsdisc before it must be passed on. Natalie plays outdoors at the Auckland Domain and cones are placed to mark out the game area. Players have to catch the sportsdisc in the goal area to score. After each goal teams swop ends so no one is disadvantaged by uncontrollable factors such as wind. There is no referee. Players make their own foul and line calls and resolve their own disputes. If players disagree then the game will revert to the previous move until everyone is satisfied.
“Ultimate is good exercise and because you never know where the disc is going to go it ‘s quite exciting. It’s great to go out after a hard day at work and pound it out on the field.”
Ultimate was created in a car park by New Jersey students in 1968 and has been played in New Zealand since the 1970’s. The sport can also be played indoors making it a year round hobby. Overseas Ultimate is a professional sport.
“More people [in New Zealand] are starting to hear about it but I suspect they don’t really understand the complexity of the game and the skill involved.”
Not much equipment is required to give Ultimate a go – shorts, t-shirt and sneakers will suffice (although serious outdoor players will wear shoes called cleats with small sprigs for grip).
While Natalie largely plays for the social aspect of the sport, boyfriend Hayden Glass is somewhat more of a fanatic and is off to compete in the World Competition in Finland in July.
“When I watch Hayden play I am amazed that they can make the sportsdisc go wherever they want and the distances they can throw it with accuracy and speed. It’s quite graceful.”
For more information www.ultimate.org.nz