I hear the infectious beat of the drums before I see them. A raucous mix of polyphonic rhythms and dramatic melodies blasts through the iron gates. We enter the family compound and find an 18-member band erupting into a cacophony of roaring percussion beats: the rattling of the tambourine, the tinkle of the balaphone and the beat of the West African djembe drums. The players pulse from one foot to another, perspiration on their brows, concentration in their eyes.
My friend and host, Kathryn Burrington from The Gambia Experience, had first seen the talented Tamala Africa Cultural Troupe perform at a friend’s wedding. They were such a hit that she invited them to put up a special performance for our group of bloggers/writers this time round on a family compound. Unlike the usual entertainment programs found in hotels all over Gambia, this percussion performance is truly genuine and outstanding. The performers – all from Guinea – explode with so much passion that we can feel it through their music.
Percussion music is integral to West African culture – and witnessing a percussion performance is an essential experience. As their representative Mohammed tells me, “When you hear drums you feel something inside your body, because they have this super natural power. It goes into our body and touches our soul. You see when a drum beat has the same pulse as our heartbeat, we hear the spirit of the drum sound.”
As someone who’s not the least bit musically inclined, I can’t really understand what he’s saying. I decide to close my eyes and try to feel the drum beat. Maybe he’s right. When the drum beat is in sync with your heartbeat, you feel the music in your body.
Here’s a short video of the spectacular performance, hope it takes you there with us.
Disclosure: My trip was made possible by The Gambia Experience but all opinions expressed above are my own.