Martin Luther King Elementary School Students Learn Drumming from African Artist
The students at Martin Luther King Elementary School received lessons in music from an artist from across the globe. Moussa Bolokada Conde is a master drummer from Guinea who is an Artist-in-Residence at the Center for World Music at the University of Illinois. He came to King Elementary music classes to teach the kids about different instruments, drumming techniques, and the importance of drumming in African culture. He came to King School as part of a grant from the City of Urbana Public Arts Program.
Brandon Washington, King Elementary music teacher, says, "Bolokada taught the kids about how important drumming is in Africa and the names for all of the drums that they would be using that day (djembe, samba). We also discussed some geography as it related to his origins in Guinea, and the major part of the workshop was teaching Mr. Mockbee’s 5th grade one of the basic dance rhythms of Guinea on the djembe drum." Washington says the the kids really took to the lessons and assembly, adding, "They loved it! They wanted Bolokada to come back and teach them another rhythm. I think I am going to have to incorporate more West African drumming into my 5th grade music classes now."
Washington hopes the kids take away many lessons from the special visit, explaining, "I hope the students understood that music is a community endeavor as well as an individual one. This opportunity came from a city grant, and the fact that all of us were drumming together made the community aspect of this activity really stand out. Also, musically, it was an excellent way to teach them about polyrhythms - when two or more complementary rhythms are played at the same time - and the new rhythms that are created from them." Washington further comments that learning music from a different culture is very important. He states, "Our world has become quite small over the last few years, and this is evidenced by the population at King School, which draws from all over the world. Not only is it helpful for some of our students to see their culture actively represented at school, but I believe it is imperative that our students realize that their world is much larger than just Urbana, that their world (and the music in it) is able to be explored, touched, felt and heard. It is not just something we see on computer or television screens."