As anyone who has listened to any group of musicians playing together will know, for the piece of music to be a success, all the contributors have to play their part.
The same applies to a class of school children learning African drumming together – for the music to work, the whole class needs to interact in a special way. So, how can this be achieved?
For many children, African rhythms are unlike anything else they have previously heard as it can include off-beats, unusual swings and phrases. For a novice, it can be difficult to understand the true feeling of this music. However, in our school African Drumming workshops, we introduce the rhythms bit by bit and there are always some children who grasp the concepts without much effort. My job is only part teacher - it is mainly facilitator. I scan the class for these children who are starting to ‘get it’ and tactfully facilitate these children to lead the others in the group. For certain subjects in school, copying is not encouraged, but in group drumming, peer to peer learning is essential.
How quickly the children pick up rhythms is not directly correlated with language, education or IQ (although other musical training can help). The leaders may not be the ‘usual suspects’ in a class – as a visitor to a school, I have no preconceptions about pupils and I often receive feedback from teachers that quieter members of the class have had an opportunity to shine. Discovering an unknown talent, especially in front of class-mates, can do wonders for the self-esteem of children who may not always be the most confident in their abilities.
The combination of facilitation and children learning from each other works to bring the whole group together and successfully master a multi-part rhythm in no time. This is why having the drums set up in a circle is such a powerful way for a group to learn challenging rhythms very quickly. Parents who attend a showcase assembly are genuinely surprised at what can be achieved in just one session. Using this model, African drumming becomes a superb example of team work, embracing all members of the team and allowing everyone to succeed.
If you would like to organise an African Drumming workshop and create a success factor for your class, please get in touch - we would love to hear from you!