Sunday, May 6, 2012

Last Night I Heard Africa Drumming

In an ordinary community hall
In the south-central section of the city
On one of the longest days of the year
They gathered.

Many of them from here:
Aboriginal, M├ętis, French and English Canadians,
And many of them from the Dark Continent:
Ghanaian, Angolan, Somali, Zimbabuen

We were raising money for a drought and poverty-stricken
Hospital in Western Ghana, and doing it in styleic

To say the hall was filled to overflowing
Would not be an exaggeration—but the real
Fulfillment came from the sound ...
As a little-travelled Canadian white woman
My understanding of African drumming
Was pretty much limited to what I saw on TV

And in movies from Hollywood; even specials
On National Geographic did not do justice
To the splendour of real drumming
The likes of which we heard last night

First, one drummer would start and he alone
Would be powerful and loud and rhythmic
In ways that are hard to define,


Then another would do a counter-beat
And another would join in and layer his
Distinctive drum either on top or in step

Until sometimes as many as ten drummers
Were making this remarkable sound
All of them different and all the same
Transporting many of us to Africa or to dance

Or both

It was not hard to imagine being in the jungle
In the dark around a fire, hearing the beat
Of these drums playing long into the night,
Or maybe for several days or nights

So mesmerizing is the intensity of music
That is just drumming—and I do not mean
To diminish it in the least by saying ‘just’

In fact, it's the opposite –that drums alone
Make such compelling music enthralls me
Thrills me, makes me want to move
As I noticed it did almost everyone
In attendance at this function

Yes, last night I heard Africa drumming
And began to understand her mystery
Just a little bit better and why
We need to keep trying with her;

Mama Africa, we hear you, we do

I found myself promising to try
Harder to help her and I will.



  1. that was amazing to hear for sure....and yes i make that promise to them carries my heartbeat and not just in her drums...

  2. Meaningful sounds of the drumming from Afria...I hear it loud and clear ~

  3. love this, always been a fan of this kind of drumming. :-) actually listening to a Paul Simon song now that incorporates the sounds.

  4. i love listening to music from far off places...

  5. You have me in the moment, listening to the rhythmic beat of those drums. Riveting, Sharon.

  6. As a drummer myself I totally get this- the build up of the rhythm , the multiple layers of sounds, not many people know or realise that drums can actually be tuned to different notes- giving them further musicality in their own right- loved the narrative style of this poem- clearly communicating just how much this music moved you

  7. There's something about the beat of a drum that stirs the soul isn't there? Vivid piece, like the close here which ties it all together nicely for me.

  8. I terrific prose poem: I could hear the drumming in my inner ear, and my feet wanted to dance, too.

  9. oh wow...this is magical... would have loved being there as for sure has her own heartbeat and it's present in their people...

  10. Thank you all so much - drumming afficianados every one, I suspect ... I took a drumming/poetry course here last year from the Mama Dada of poetry in Canada, Sheri D Wilson, and now have a beginner drum of my own ... there is nothing, in my experience, to equal drumming, whether alone or with a group ... and the night I speak of in the poem sits in my mind like a truly magical moment in time