The Meaning of the Drums

Semi-circular formation of Barundian drummers from above.

On November 23, 2019, our partner and friend, Alphonse Ndayikengurukiye (n-D-ah-ih-kehn-goo-roo-KEE-yea), left for NYC in the company of the Batimbo Foundation Family team of drummers who have been invited to perform for America’s Got Talent (AGT). Alphonse will document the journey and its motivations in the form of a video or the Batimbo Foundation Family.

This is but a small piece of a much larger project that Alphonse and Building Resilience will initiate. Alphonse will call on drummers from many countries and cultures to come together and explore the messages loaded by and through drumming. The act of drumming spreads the spirit within the drum to the sensation of those around. In Burundi, Alphonse’s homeland, a master drummer faces a team of drummers, in semi-circle formation, with the sole objective of following the master. In doing so a powerful spirit of unity and solidarity is shared.

What are the messages of the many drummers from other countries and cultures? Is the message of the African drummer the same as that of America’s indigenous peoples? Is the message of the Rwandan drummer the same as that of the Passamaquoddy? Whatever the message one thing seems clear. Sadness is not the expression of those who drum.

What’s the connection between drumming and Building Resilience you ask? We see resilience as a set of behavioral strategies for responding to challenges, adversity, and crisis. We look for real-world applications/expressions of those skills & attitudes that equate to resilience so that we can demonstrate how these same behaviors contribute to building community resilience. Though we don’t know, as yet, the message of drumming across many cultures, we feel that it is very likely a real-world expression of community resilience.

Drumming connects cultural communities and communicates something of importance to each. It empowers drummers to work together as a team to accomplish a common goal and inspires those who are witness to their actions. The messages loaded by drumming are an expression of values and meaning in the lives of the cultural community where they originate. As such, they help to manage strong feelings and facilitate a focus on the importance of the bigger picture. Participating in valued cultural activity is a means of caring for oneself and others in a nurturing and spiritual way. Drumming is an act of caring for others through the sharing of the cultural messages that they carry.

Drumming demonstrates quite well the Skills & Attitudes that we know to be key components of resilience. We are pleased to share that we have been invited to Indian Island to carry out this project. We will keep you posted as the project comes together. If your community participates in cultural drumming, we invite you to contact us. We would love to learn the message of your drums and how they may build resilience within your cultural community.

It is also our hope to send a message that these expressions of cultural resilience should be celebrated and not lost to assimilation. We wish to film and share the message of the drums and the means by which they contribute to community resilience. We have a lot to learn about building community resilience in a society that becomes more and more disconnected day by day. If we are to build community resilience we must find ways to reconnect. There are lessons to be learned from cultures that have the means to do so.

Photo of Alphonse Ndayikengurukiye.
Alphonse Ndayikengurukiye
Photo of Charlene Fernald Moynihan
Charlene Fernald Moynihan