West African Drums Echo Throughout the Barclay Theatre
Colorful costumes, exuberant dancing, energetic performances and skilled musicians make for fantastic entertainment on a Friday night.
The Drummers of West Africa, under the lead of Doudou N’Diaye Rose, had terrific stage presence with energy visibly pulsating from their bodies into their drums.
Within moments of the opening piece, it was obvious as to why this group is world famous, having performed in nearly all the capitals of Europe. A global reputation has earned the Drummers of West Africa opportunities to perform at some of the most high-profile events in the entertainment industry, such as being the opening act for the 50th Cannes Film Festival.
Perhaps it’s because the Drummers of West Africa are playing a beat that everyone can march to, or maybe it’s because of the legendary 75-year-old Rose, who is the most famous sabar master in the world. Sabar, a type of drumming native to Senegal, West Africa, is played for special occasions such as births, weddings, holidays and even for wrestling matches.
The drum used is cut into the shape of a cylinder from a solid piece of wood. Goatskin is then stretched across each of the ends of the drum. Either end can then be hit with a stick to produce sound.
From griot lineage and as a native Senegalan, Rose has an important cultural role in West African society as counselors, musicians and oral historians.
Of the 35 percussionists in the company, all of them are members of Rose’s family.
The drummers were all relatively young, some being women, some men. The last number in the first act included several lovely ladies in red and white costumes doing native dancing to a fast-paced jungle beat. They were so full of energy and excitement, one couldn’t help but groove along with them. But the true star of the show was Rose who bounded around the stage, leading the group.
The company is constantly participating while on-stage whether they’re clapping along with the beat, letting the rhythm move them or singing along when appropriate.
At first, the audience sat in awe of the talent of the Drummers of West Africa, however, to the untrained and ignorant ears of the average audience member, after awhile it became difficult to distinguish a difference between the numbers.
Eventually, each song blended into the next one, to where you really couldn’t tell where one ended and another began. They all sounded the same because there were no other instruments to offer varying rhythms or melodies, no variation in pitch or drumming volume, nor did there appear to be a difference in style or technique. There didn’t appear to be slow tunes or melodic tunes