A Senegalese drum group goes off with serious joy.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
The rhythm at this drumming event may be off, but that’s not the point. When the area’s Senegalese drumming community converges at Park Avenue Studio on Sundays, it’s about the spirit.
Senegal native Abdoulaye Diallo leads the troupe, which is open to anyone with a drum. “We have a diverse group here,” he says “But the differences are what make it work.”
Those differences are visible. On a recent weekend, a balding hippie rocks out in a half-buttoned Hawaiian shirt, while a petite blonde woman stands on tiptoes to reach the top of her drum. Nearby, a tall and gangly teenager grins as he swings so wildly that he almost hits the people seated next to him. A woman in another corner dances more than she drums.
What they have in common is audible: a desire to resurrect traditional African music played on wolof and sabar drums.
The wolof beat is characterized by layers of rhythm, and is considered an ancient remedy that heals the sick and lulls children to sleep. Linda Satchell, a member of the group and expert in the therapeutic arts, incorporates the techniques with her work in the field of child psychology at the Kinship Center in Salinas.
“The kids really respond,” Satchell says “It’s a catharsis to express yourself in any way at all, and I think it’s significant that this kind of drumming is a traditional remedy.”
The group draws from a repertoire developed during trips to Senegal, and is currently perfecting a victory song and dance of deep beats of increasing frequency accented by fluttering taps. Elegant beats are interspersed with sporadic gongs or awkward silences. The motley crew looks animated and joyous banging and tapping away on the face of the drums.
When the song is completed, the crew disperses with upbeat spirits. Beaming faces offer ample evidence that sometimes the best form of therapy is hitting something really hard.