Drums are likely the oldest form of musical instrument known to mankind. So old in fact, that researchers from the National Academy of Science suggested that drumming is part-and-parcel to our species- other primates also drum on objects to communicate. Drumming might very well be something we as human beings have evolved to do.
The art of drumming has also in various forms, become an integral component of cultures the world over, from East Asian war drumming , to the talking drums of Sri Lanka and West Africa. These instruments are not only universal in nature, but they are tied to our very humanity at the deepest level.
The DrumConnection (Boston, MA) links students with a very specific part of our human heritage- the djembe drum music of Guinea. Guinea is just a small nation on the west coast of Africa yet it looms large on the world stage. The DrumConnection offers a unique experience into the rhythms of the continent.
It all began over 20 years ago in Arlington, Massachusetts as part of The Cambridge Center of Adult Education (CCAE), an adult education school adjacent to Harvard University. At first, it was just a few classes taught by Alan Tauber, the current director of The DrumConnection. The popularity of the classes led to the program’s expansion. Today, it is the largest hand drumming school in the New England area and one of the largest in the country. The DrumConnection has a teacher training program and over ten instructors, each of them described by Tauber as a “treasure to the community”.
The program is also different in that they are able to bring in true hand drumming masters such as Famoudou Konaté, Mamady Keita, and Wadaba so that they may share their ideas with students. And The DrumConnection tries to bring them in yearly. Students are also given the chance to visit Guinea, the birthplace of the djembe drum. “Our students have the opportunity to travel with us yearly to study drumming, language, dance and culture from the Guineans – hand to hand or in Malinké – Wassa Kunba ‘with great joy’”
Tauber himself has 45 years of experience teaching and playing the drums. He has taught not only West African drum styles, but also variants from Haiti, Cuba and the Americas. But what sets Tauber and The DrumConnection apart from all the thousands of drumming schools in the United States is a strong desire and the will to give back to the communities that spawned those drum styles. Explains Tauber, “We LOVE drumming but it is also a business for us. We need to stay in business to help the poor on the African continent.”
He further elaborates on his advocacy “We build djembe and dunun drums in Guinea and support African craftsmen and women to help them put rice on the table and aid in relief work in heath care, mostly malaria relief. When people attend our classes, attend our workshops or buy a drum from us, they are helping Africa as well.” By enrolling in the program, you aren’t just learning the drums from the best in the field. You are also helping others realize a better tomorrow.
Fortunately for Africa- and for music lovers, The DrumConnection’s 20 year long streak of bridging cultures through music shows no signs of slowing down. Tauber comments “[success] had a lot to do with being able to see what each student needed from a drum course. What were the things that we could do to make their understanding and musical ability flourish.” Passion for the craft probably didn’t hurt, too. “It needs to be accessible but must remain authentic.”
For the past 7 years, UPrinting has been part of The DrumConnection’s continuing legacy of music and humanity. The program has ordered business cards, postcards, fliers, brochures, banners, and signs.
“UPrinting has helped us enormously with their expertise and quality of printing and products” Explains Tauber, “I can rely on a professional appearance, combined with lead graphic designer,[and drum instructor} Audrey Gaffron, to show off The DrumConnection as THE place to go for hand drumming!”
When it comes to letting the world know about what they do, UPrinting has been The DrumConnection’s consistent choice. Says Tauber “With the perfect sign, brochure or mailing piece, UPrinting has consistently given us a solid product that speaks for us. It says we are professional and that we care about how we look. In business, looks are important!”
Arthur Piccio is a feature writer and subject matter expert for theUPrinting Blog.