Black History Month drums up interest on P.E.I. ( FEATURED VIDEO )

Above photo: Meeley Jbbeun and Mufaro Chakabuda lead a drumming workshop and cultural discussion at the Confederation Centre Public Library Feb. 11.

By Alison Jenkins

Feb. 14, 2018

The drums could be heard from outside the thick walls of the library Sunday afternoon. Resonating in the large space, two women seemed to summon people to the circle of chairs next to the bookshelves in the Confederation Centre Library.

Nobody shushed the drummers who gathered to learn African drumming techniques.

Mufaro Chakabuda taught the anatomy of the drum, the three tones and some basic call and repeating rhythms. Chakabuda travelled from the Maritime Centre for African Dance in Halifax.

The drum is made of a goat skit stretched over a rosewood base. Three tones are made by hitting the skin in different places. Bass is made by hitting the palm against the centre of the skin, tone is made by hitting the skin closer to the edge and slap is made by slapping the skin and swiftly drawing your hand toward yourself at the end.

Chakabuda played the beats to signal the start, the class chimed in with the rhythm they just learned. The three simple techniques combined into a rich volume as everyone played in unison.

Drumming was originally used to communicate between villages, said Chakabuda.

Meeley Jbbeun is also with the Maritime Centre for African Drumming. During the slave trade, the drums became a way to express heartache, she said.

“It was major in the slave time, when they were slaving my country. They used to make the drum, hand made it, and they sit by a bonfire and they will sing their sorrows.”

There was a cultural discussion at the end to help people leave with a realistic picture of what Africa really is, said Chakabuda.

“It’s a continent, it’s not a country. It has 55 countries,” said Jbbeun.

She surprised students in a class recently when she told them she had Wi-Fi back in Africa.

“I want people to know the progress we made,” said Jbbeun. “My students didn’t even know we have WiFi. They were so shocked we have WiFi. It was sad, and it was, like, funny too.”

Chakabuda got her degree in Canada but it was her early education in Zimbabwe that enabled her to succeed.

“Everything I learned, my foundation, is from home.  So we defy the expectations.”

PEI started Black History Month in 2017. Events are happening throughout February.