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Beat it! - letter to Mail and Guardian, 6 May 2005

Read online at: http://www.mg.co.za/articleflat.aspx?area=mg_flat&ArticleId=10182

John Matshikiza’s criticism of the Drum Café’s ethos in “The Drum: Africa’s final last frontier” (April 22) makes no reference to the many potential benefits of communal drumming, which far outweigh its supposed shortcomings.

At the Opening of Parliament in February, Nelson Mandela asked: “Why don’t you beat the drums?” as a group of us were caught unawares with our drums silent. Just like a heart that stops beating, there is something unsettling about a silent drum – it’s human nature to want to keep the beat alive.

Rhythm is not the exclusive property of Africans; it’s an innate part of being human. We all have rhythm in our bodies - our hearts beat rhythmically, we breathe rhythmically, we even walk and talk with rhythm.

Moreover, drumming is not the reserve of traditional African societies; it appears across the world in most indigenous societies, often to communicate with the spirit world. In pre-Christian Europe, before it was banned by the church for being pagan, drumming played a very important role in spiritual life.

Drumming connects on many levels – it allows people to feel a sense of unity, and a connection with their environment, the Earth, and with the spirit world, if one takes it to this level. Interactive drumming is not so much about “getting white people in tune with the African heartbeat” as about allowing people from different cultures, religions, sexes and ages to experience a sense of unity transcending their differences. Let’s use this important tool!

Catherine Welsh
Founder, Drumming SA
Cape Town

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