Saturday, July 4, 2015

History of African Drummimg

As we are awaiting the day when the Destiny Africa Childrens Choir arrives at our local music center, I thought it would be interesting to study the history of African drummimg.  African drums are believed to be the oldest musical instrument in the world.  The Africans have observed that everything that moves has rhythm.  Most of the drums are made in Ghana, Bali, and Thailand today and drumming is an art that is taken very seriously.

The djjembe drum, as it is called today originated in West Africa with the Mandinkas.  It is made with a piece of African hardwood topped with an animal skin stretched across it, most likely goat skin from Central Africa, which has the best goats for making drums..  It was introduced by the Malian empire about 400 – 800 years ago.   Drumming in Africa was so prestigious that Blacksmiths made the drum and the people who made the drums were said to be of the djembe families.   They were the only ones who were allowed to play the drums.  The families were called "djeli" and are still prominent in the area today.  They originated from Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast, where the art of djembe drum making began.  These areas have the trees which theae highly desired drums were originally made.  If the drum is made elsewhere, it is noticeable in the way it sounds.   They use the drums to play for weddings, funerals, baptisms and other rituals.

The drummer usually starts the ritual and then a singer joins him.  The guests then gather around in a circle and dance with the drummer and singers.  Some drummers today do not have the singer and the art has been lost.  African drumming was discovered by the Europeans first and then by North Americans.  It has spread all over the world with Japan and China taking up an interest more recently.  The drumming is an art and each new member of the family studies the art of drumming for many years with the master.

Music teachers often use the African drum to teach rhythm to young children, as the Africans believe that everyone has rhythm.  Additionally, drums and piano make a nice duet.

We look forward hearing the  Destiny Africa Childrens Choir.

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