Steve Rivers established Unbeatable Energy in 2004. As director and lead facilitator, Steve is likely to be one of the most vibrant and dynamic people you will ever meet!
From beginnings in classical percussion, Steve turned to African drumming in 1995 and has visited Gambia and Senegal on multiple occasions to research drumming history and culture, and to learn new rhythms, beats and dances.
Through drumming workshops and events, Steve and his team have unlocked the undiscovered creativity and rhythm in hundreds of adults and children across the country.
“One memorable highlight was speaking at the 2006 Successful Selling Conference at the Birmingham ICC. The post-dinner energiser event involved 1200 delegates taking part in a giant ‘Boomwhacker’ percussion session. In the space of 10 minutes everyone in the room was playing a co-ordinated rhythm. The entire auditorium was buzzing with enthusiasm, energy and creative inspiration.”
This is why we do what we do!
Zoe’s first experience with African drumming came at a summer singing camp ten years ago. The exhilaration of taking part in drumming workshops at this camp lead her to diversify her musical direction. She began to study African Drumming from then on. She now performs with a drumming group and has been facilitating workshops with Unbeatable Energy for six years.
Zoe is also an experienced vocalist running a community choir in Sheffield for three years. She loves to combine percussion work with her roots in song. She believes that everybody and anybody can make music. In her free time Zoe loves walks in the countryside, spending time having fun with her family, drinking tea and eating, especially chocolate!
Jonathan has been drumming from a young age, beginning on kit and playing percussion in various concert bands. He discovered African drumming in 2007 and has worked alongside Steve for 5 years, including performances at Peace in the Park and other festivals.
Jonathan also teaches catering and works with vulnerable adults and young people with learning difficulties.
Laura discovered West African drums at a tiny festival in Scotland where she attended the same workshop three times - she was so enchanted by the rhythms and soul of the music. She has been working with Unbeatable Energy for over 3 years.
Laura is a singer and can play the piano, ukulele, guitar and mbira. She is also in the Sheffield Samba Band, teaches English to asylum seekers and refugees and provides private rhythm and percussion sessions for children with learning disabilities.
Over the years we have worked with hundreds of organisations, schools and community groups. We travel nationally and internationally for corporate events, while our schools clients are more often found in South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Cheshire, Staffordshire, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire and the West Midlands.
This is just a small selection of the many letters and emails we receive following drumming workshops and events.
"A truly unforgettable experience! Boomwhackers were quickly passed out to the 300 plus strong staff audience and the session began. Within moments a sound of sorts emerged and within a few minutes we were making a fairly passable tune and hearing over 300 people make a syncopated tune was utterly amazing. If you’re looking for something different and thoroughly stimulating and creative, Unbeatable Energy get my vote!
Within minutes our students were playing multiple rhythms with the Boomwhackers and the room was buzzing with positive energy. Steve Rivers led the activity with energy and passion and gave the group the confidence to achieve far more than they would have imagined. The day finished with a strong sense of group achievement and everyone was thoroughly invigorated by the experience.
The afternoon with Unbeatable Energy was really enjoyable and worthwhile. It was amazing how it brought the team together. We would definitely recommend this event for any team wanting to do something different and have some fun.
The Walt Disney Company UK and Ireland
The Boomwhacker energiser was a tremendous success at our recent PepsiCo UK Operations Conference. Not only did it create high levels of fun, energy and team spirit, it reinforced our conference themes of “Simplify, Standardise, Connect and Leverage” in a very memorable and engaging way.
PepsiCo UK and Ireland
I'm still feeling uplifted after watching yourself, my daughter and all the children in her class take part in your drumming workshop today. It was fantastic and so upbeat - I can't believe they learnt all that in a day! Great energy, rhythm, team work, enthusiasm and dancing, not to mention audience participation... Brilliant! Well done!
Parent of Year 4 Pupil
The whole experience was energising and exciting, inspiring even the most timid of our children to participate fully in the sessions. It was lovely to see the excitement and enjoyment on the children’s faces as they responded and contributed to the rhythms and patterns which you and they wove together to make such wonderful sounds. Thank you so much. It was certainly a day to remember.
Thank you for yet another fantastic drumming workshop. The children have thoroughly enjoyed the session today and are really enthusiastic about the follow-up work that we have planned with other percussion instruments. From the beginning to the last moment, every child was focused on the task and keen to pick up the new rhythms that you introduced. We will look forward to seeing you again next year!
Year 5 Teacher
I would just like to say how inspiring and stimulating it was and how unlike some of the other activities – it was so hands on and fun! I personally have learnt new techniques and have been motivated to do more things with cultural music. The amount of effort that you put in was massive and we would all like to say a big thank you!
Year 9 Teacher
During an INSET day all the staff (teachers and support staff) learned how to use African drums and introduce the children to different beats and rhythms. We now have drumming going on throughout the school from reception to Y6. Using the drums is a very good way of quickly introducing the children to lots of different aspects of making and performing music and both the children and the staff love it!
Thank you so much for the tremendous session you did for the head teachers. The enthusiasm and energy you gave the session was truly infectious!
Wakefield City council LEA
A big thank you for your contribution to our Fun Event last week! We had some very positive feedback about the drumming as the children and parents were leaving. Hope you enjoyed the experience as much as we did.
North Sheffield Drug and Alcohol Project
Thank you so much for all your hard work last Saturday which made our event so successful. I’ve had lots of excited feedback saying how much the girls enjoyed the drumming session and I am sure it was the highlight of their day.
Steve has delivered fantastic drumming workshops and performances at a range of events I have been involved in organising. He has loads of energy and can always be counted on to add something really special to the day.
Thank you so much for providing our Brownies and Rainbows with an excellent and entertaining workshop during our Thinking Day celebrations. The girls had a fantastic time as did the mums and leaders who came along.
Girl Guide Association
The African continent is enormous and our own experience and research covers a tiny fragment of the West African region. Within that tiny fragment, we have enough research material to keep us busy for our entire lifetime! Just as there are thousands of different styles of music and rhythms, there are hundreds of different drums all with their own special customs, culture and language. Here are drums that we have explored and share a passion for in our African drumming and drum circle events.
A single skinned hand drum made out of one piece of hollowed African wood and shaped like an hour glass. It normally stands about two feet high and has a Goat skin which is fastened to the shell with metals rings. These rings are attached with tightly strung rope which creates a complex system of woven ‘diamonds’ around the shell of the drum. The end result is a drum that has an incredible diversity of sounds. The edge of the drum has a dry, high pitched (almost metallic sound) sound. In complete contrast the sound created in the middle of the drum is a deep, booming bass which is quite capable of rattling the walls of a small room.
The Djembe drum originates from a collection of West African tribes in Guinea Conakry, Burkina Faso, Mali and some select regions of Ivory Coast and Senegal. Traditionally played by families born into the trade of black smithing, it is now one of the most popular drums played throughout the entire continent.
Like the Djembe, Dunduns are made out of one piece of hollowed wood, but carved into a barrel shape. They are double sided and played with a stick, though only one side is ever played at any given time. In Guinea the skin is normally made of a strong, thick, cow skin, while in countries such as Mali, the skin is often a lighter goat skin. There are three types of Dundun played – the largest is the Dundunba, the middle sized is the Sangba and the smallest is the Kenkeni.
There are a variety of ways to play them. They can be played side-ways with one hand while the other hand plays a bell attached to the shell, or they can be played standing upright. You can have several musicians playing different complimentary rhythms on each of the three dunduns or alternatively one musician might strap them together and play all three combined.
Dunduns are the driving force behind the sound and rhythm of the Djembe and thus complete a classic Djembe ensemble. You will rarely see a professional Djembe group in West Africa without the Dundun drums. They have immense power and momentum, creating an intense funky sound which makes it virtually impossible not to move when you hear them being played!
The Bugarabu is a single sided hand drum played by the Jola tribe in Gambia, Senegal and Guinea Bissau. Although it looks similar to the Djembe, it’s sound and the way it is played is completely different. The piece of wood is carved into a cone shape and traditionally the skin was pegged down rather than fastened with rope as in the photograph. The single drum can be played on its own like a djembe, but professional players often play four or five of them together, sometimes for hours non-stop!
Bugarabus have a unique, unmistakable sound which is created by a thick cow skin which is fastened tightly to the drum to create a beautifully rich tone.
Drums are not the only component to creating the perfect rhythm sound. Throughout Africa and Latin America the drums are frequently accompanied by a large variety of percussion – metallic sounds such as the Agogo and Apitua bells, Wood Blocks which create depth and timbre and shakers such as the Cabassa and Maracas which create momentum. Hand percussion offers something unique and special giving distinction to the multiple beats being played. They are given the same level of importance as the larger drums in a rhythm ensemble.
Boomwhackers are tuned acoustic tubes that create different harmonic tones. They are played by tapping the end of the tube against one’s hand or clashing two together, rather like cymbals.
Because each coloured Boomwhacker creates a musical note, amazing patterns can be created which fuse harmony with rhythm. In a Boomwhacker group session, participants can easily identify the harmonic tone of each colour and this enables them to create complex music.
Boomwhackers are versatile. They can be used in many different activities in schools, colleges, parties and private functions, community and corporate events. Boomwhackers work brilliantly with group sizes from 30 to 1500.