September 29, 2020

By RACHEL HENRY

You feel the rhythm as your palms strike the smooth face of the drum. Voices sing out, chanting in time with the hollow beats emitting from beneath your hands. Dancers, clothed in traditional African kaftans, swoop and sway, their whole bodies moving in synch to the sounds.
Opening your eyes, you are transported from Africa back to the Student Life Centre, where you sit in a circle, facing peers. Between everyone’s knees is a djembe, a traditional West African drum.
On Nov. 16 Katherine van Lemmeren, co-founder of Organic Groove, a workshop that provides creative outlets such as drum circle lessons, led a drum circle at the college.
The djembe (pronounced jem-bay) used were from Ghana, and consisted of one solid piece of wood. They were beautifully hand carved, with goat skin stretched over the top and ropes for tuning.
“When we play the drum we tilt it – we open the drum’s mouth so it can sing,” van Lemmeren instructed the circle.
The group, which was comprised of Conestoga students, took part in jam sessions and learned to play different beats to the chants “I love my djembe,” and “I love macaroni, I love cheese.”
First-time djembe player Prashanth Sanka said he loved the changes in tempos and different ways of playing.
“It was awesome,” Sanka said. “I felt like I was involved in the music. I liked it a lot.”
The African drumming circle workshop was held in conjunction with Diversity Week, which Student Life describes as “a time to embrace, celebrate and recognize cultural diversity in our campus community.” The week also included activities and displays showcasing world cultures.

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