West African Djembe drumming in Salford and Manchester
West African Djembe drumming in Salford and Manchester

Wow! What a brilliant afternoon we had playing and dancing with West African djembe drums at St. Boniface School in Salford.  West

African Djembe music is not written down and is instead passed on verbally in phonetics which mimic the sounds of the drums beats. Singing music in phonetics is common in other forms of music such as 'beebop' in Jazz. In fact when people sing a tune and start going 'dum-deedum-deedum', you could say that this is very similar to the music recited in African djembe drumming.

Completely unprompted by us, the year 6 class at St. Boniface School created their own phonetics for one of the rhythms - when I taught a 5 beat rhythm and referred to it as 'Give a dog a bone', a pupil in the class asked if they could instead say ' shabalabala!' Aha! - a special moment when a class creates a piece of gold! Pretty soon 'shabalabala' turned into 'shabalabalabalabalabalabala' and it got spiced up with a call and response that went something like 'kudu-ka-ku-kadu-kadaka'...erm..perhaps we should drop the 'gobaldy gooch' and just play you the final result!

Click the link below to hear the final piece:

African Drumming Piece at St. Boniface School, Salford, Greater Manchester

Enjoyed their African Drumming piece? Well - not bad for an Iphone recording - it was amazing to hear the whole version live!

St. Boniface have invited us to deliver African Drumming at their school on two occasions this year. When we visited them last time, we worked with the Y1 class and gave a performance to the parents and (as you may well expect) the parents took part as well. We handed out these special drums called 'sound shapes' which have a really nice sharp tone that cuts through the 'bassy' sounds of the drums. This meant that, in addition to the 30 x Year 1 children playing djembe drums, we had a 50 strong 'sound shape' section - care of 50 parents who got a little bit more than they bargained for!

If you are a school and you are reading this, surely you must be thinking - why can't we have this at our school? With such a fantastic experience to boost children's creativity, plus a performance at the end of the day where everyone participates - who  could resist?

So what are you waiting for? Make your Africa Topic, Black History Month or Arts Week something which your children will remember for years to come!