Students drum to tradition

Ashley Mubiru
Staff Writer

Students in Ellen Rondina’s West African Drum class performed the West African Drum Ensemble Wednesday in Sneaky Park.

Two sets of drummers performed the show.

The first set featured about seven drummers, while the second set featured 10.

The first ensemble, presented as “West African Ensemble 1,” featured a piece from the Mandaya tribe in Guinea.

Rondina made it a point to call it a “West African” drumming ensemble because this style of drumming is specific to that region.

“An infinite number of rhythms and instruments and songs, tribes; there’s so much,” Rondina said. “It’s a notion of West African Drumming that we’re presenting.”

The second group started their performance with “Coo Coo,” which comes from Beyla, Guinea, in which the Milinke dialect is spoken.

There are several ways to play “Coo Coo,” but it is often played in the evening. Men and women go to the musicians and ask them to play “Coo Coo,” saying it would make them happy.

“We’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of years of history, and history moving from continent to continents,” Rondina said. “It’s very difficult to say what’s authentic and what’s traditional.”

The drummers played a traditional piece from the Akan tribe in Ghana. This piece was said to be a typical party song, though not necessarily heard in ceremonies. It has been adapted into Highlife music, a modern West Africa music genre.

One of the drummers, junior history major Paril Patel said the West African Drumming class benefited him in many ways.

“Drumming was a way for me to relax my mind and really let loose for an hour with the drum,” Patel said. “It’s relieving having this class because it really clears your mind and helps you concentrate better in school.”

The West African Drum class would practice one hour a week on Wednesdays.

Junior psychology major Noelle Huffman was intrigued by the different shapes and sounds of each drum.

“Even though it was really loud, I found it soothing in a way because of the deep base; I would feel it in my chest,” Huffman said. “It was kind of calming.”

Ashley Mubiru can be reached at

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