Mzungu Memoirs

The Beat of the Drum

Africans seem to be born with a natural ability, or at least desire, to drum.

Conrad, our little neighbor and Caleb’s friend, is a great example.  When play with Caleb grows dull, he loves to beat on a little drum displayed in our living room.  What I see as a display piece, Conrad sees as the blend of a toy and a musical instrument.  While he lacks the skill of his elders, he does seem to have potential.

Our guard Ali, on the other hand, has skill.  I tried to ask where he learned to drum; it is apparently just something every boy learns to do, especially if they live in a village rather than a big city.  We were blessed to hear Ali’s prowess last week when he was testing out the drums our neighbor, Florence, had bought for her school.  He even gave Caleb an impromptu drumming lesson, although I’m not sure Caleb was really all that interested.  He would rather learn to play the guitar, but I’ll leave that story for another blog.  I think Caleb was drumming with Ali simply to appease me and my desire to capture some cute pictures.

As I mentioned, Florence bought the drums for her school and plans for Ali to teach the kids how to use them.  Mostly, I think it will be a matter of learning by example, but it is an easy way for Florence to introduce a “music program” into her school.  She said that drums are the cheapest way to start out and they are fairly easy to maintain.  She explained that many schools at least have drums until they can afford to buy more instruments like a xylophone and other traditional instruments.  Her comment reminded me of a time I was walking past a school in our neighborhood and heard a drum beating and kids chanting.  At the time, I didn’t realize how common an occurrence it was.

Drums seem to permeate every part of life here.  We have one at the eMi office that we use for our Friday morning worship times.  We take turns leading worship, and anyone can use the drum but I particularly like when our Uganda staff lead worship using only their voices and the drum.  Semei, our office administrator, seems to know how to get a beat going to help us lift our praises that much higher.

I have really come to love the drums here and the way the Africans beat on them.  I think one of the things I’m going to miss when we leave this wonderful land is the random drum beats you hear ringing through the air.  Well, maybe not all of them.  I don’t think I’ll miss the ones at 3 o’clock in the morning.

Praise the Lord!

Praise God in his sanctuary!
Praise God in his fortress, the sky!
Praise God in his mighty acts!
Praise God as suits his incredible greatness!
Praise God with the blast of the ram’s horn!
Praise God with lute and lyre!
Praise God with drum and dance!
Praise God with strings and pipe!
Praise God with loud cymbals!
Praise God with clashing cymbals!
Let every living thing praise the Lord!

Praise the Lord!

Psalm 150

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