March 27, 2014 in Washington Voices

Grant brings beats from Africa to East Farms

Thanks to grant, students at East Farms STEAM Magnet School are learning to play African drums
By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

Savanna Young, 10, (with pink glasses) and her East Farms STEAM Magnet School fourth-grade classmates learn to play the djembe during an African drumming class Monday. The school recently recieved 30 djembes paid for by a grant.
(Full-size photo)

A storm rolled through East Farms STEAM Magnet School earlier this week.

First, there was wind. Andy Jones of Djembe Direct and the Africa Heartwood Project instructed students to make wind sounds with their mouths. They added rain by snapping their fingers. Students could feel the rumble as thunder rolled through the gym when students stomped their feet on the floor.

Jones was there Monday and Tuesday to lead lessons on djembe drumming. The school bought 30 djembes, as well as bells and shakers, after winning a $6,000 grant from the Hagen Foundation. That grant was part of a total of $93,549 the foundation donated to the school in December.

Music teacher Lucien Saurette wrote the grants for the African drumming program.

“Part of the curriculum is to study world music,” Saurette said.

Jones talked with students about the basics of the djembe. The drum heads are made of animal skin, usually goat.

There was one drum made from sheep skin and about three drums made with cow skin.

“The cow skin drums make a special kind of sound,” Jones explained.

He asked the students to keep the beat while he played a rhythm on a djembe, explaining the difference between beat and rhythm. The students listened to his rhythm first before clapping the beat.

“That was excellent,” he said.

The students also got a chance to ask him questions. They asked him about his own trips to Africa. Jones and his wife, Kayla Thompson, founded Africa Heartwood Project, a nonprofit organization that builds wells, orphanages and schools for the deaf in several African countries. He said on his first trip to Ghana, they visited a village where they made the drums.

“They make them with machetes,” he told them and the designs were hand-carved. The drums East Farms purchased came from Djembe Direct, which imports and sells the African drums.

Students enjoyed the lessons.

“We got to play the drums and do something active,” said Karen Alama, a fourth-grader.

There is one comment on this story. Click here to view comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email