The workshop on African Drums not only had participants enthralled by the beats, but soon got them dancing too.

“Music, music, music… we breathe, teach, learn, play and die music,” said O'Dyke Nzewi, an African classical drummer, choreographer and composer in indigenous African musical style, at a recently held workshop.

Dakshina Chithra, the heritage centre was host to “African Drums”. The workshop was sponsored by The Aseema Trust. Mr.O'Dyke Nzewi, Education and Research Manager of the Center for Indigenous Instrumental Music and Dance Practices of Africa, Pretoria, South Africa. (CIIMDA) and Ms. Jenny Kinnear, were present to teach the participants beat, rhythm and a basic African dance.

He said, in their community when a child is born , the first thing he hears is the jubilant cries of the people welcoming him into their midst. From then on, there is no stopping the music in one's life. For every ceremony, whether it is birth, puberty, marriage and death, music plays a dominant role. “Music” he says “is our life, our heritage.”

The participants stood in a circle – this circle was important, said Nzewi, as standing together, represented the family, they were now together. The circle was necessary “to survive”.

Then stamping their feet, to the steady beat of “one, two, simple though it seemed, was mesmerising. They learnt to clap, in different ways, while the steady stamping of feet went on without stopping. “Feel the pulse,” cried Nzewi. “Don't stop the stamping, or the music dies.”

It was now time to bring in the drums. He began with an introduction on the role of drums in the African community. Drums, he said, apart from being the heart of the music, also helps them to conduct their day-to-day activities and in communication.

The djembe drum was described as the “Dad” of the orchestra. According to the Bamana people in Mali, the name of the djembe comes directly from the saying “Anke dje, anke be” which translates as “everyone gather together” and defines the drum's purpose. The slit drum (ikoro) made from red appa wood, was usually used for communication. The kids from Roots Model School, Tiruvanmiyur, had a field day with the drums — learning the different beats and finally beating a rhythm that had the participants dancing.

The workshop ended with thappattam, and Nzewi too joined the dance.

AASHA, VII, Roots Model School, Thiruvanmiyur: “This was the first time I have even seen the Slit drum. It was fun beating it.”

ARYA, (5), Abacus School: “I enjoyed everything, the clapping, the stamping and the dance.”