Drumming, dancing to build community

Oct 10, 2018

To the beat of African drums, Nailani Gomes and her mother Nicole Luz performed an original song for their classmates, who joined in one by one on drums of their own.

The class in African dance and drumming, hosted by the Encompass Community at Friends Academy on October 10, began as instructor Tara Murphy, of Cape Cod African Dance, invited students to wrap themselves in traditional African cloth. She told students they “were gonna get [their] joy on!”

She asked students to dance freestyle  to the beat of the music she was playing by Babatunde Olatunji, a Nigerian drummer who was Murphy’s first drum teacher. The adults and children swayed in time, stomped their feet, and waved their arms, with huge smiles across their faces.

The music delivered a message of “joy, love, and community we have together:” a feeling that was palpable in the room. Murphy also taught new dance moves, encouraging participants to bend their knees and dip down to the ground before stretching to the sky or shimmy their shoulders.

Before passing out drums, Murphy let participants listen to the music they would be playing: Work by Moussa Traore, a Boston-based drummer from Mali.

Two types of drums were sampled: the djembe, which is a hand drum, and the dum dum (pronounced doom doom), which is played with sticks. The dum dum comes in three sizes. Murphy explained that the smallest, and highest pitched, drum is the baby, the middle drum is the father, and the largest drum is the mother.

“The mama is the biggest drum because she holds the family together,” Murphy explained. “And if she holds the family together, she holds the whole world together, I think.”

The djembe is a drum that means “come together in peace.”

“All the drums are peacemakers,” Murphy said.

Murphy led the group in a variety of rhythms before inviting the group to invent their own rhythms, which many did. 

Murphy said that playing music and dancing is an important way to make people happy, build community, and relieve stress.

”It’s a great feel good wellness, something that brings us closer to the earth and the community,” she said.

The event was organized by the Encompass Community, a non-profit group offering educational opportunities for homeschool students and learners of all ages. For more information about Encompass Community, email Liz Gouveia at egouveia@friendsacademy1810.org.