Listen to the MP3 in Kiswahili below. You can also read Seth’s translated speech which explains from an indigenous perspective the depth of what the drum represents in African culture.
Monthly Archives: January 2015
During our recent stay in Phnom Penh we met up with a master roneat player who teaches the children at CCAM. He helped me during the recordings and made sure that all the parts that were being played were correct. We spent some time together chatting about his family history in music and life during the Pol Pot years. Listen to the podcast interview and hear him playing the roneat with another teacher playing the tro.
“If I ask a person from the Gogo tribe what a ngoma (drum) is, he will start with the top and explain this is the skin. These are designs. This part is made from a tree. What will he be trying to describe… a drum. But I want to tell you. If you ask a person from the Ha tribe, or from my home, you won’t hear that a drum is made from wood. There, drums are made from buckets or metal drums. They take metal drums and cut them into pieces then cover them here and here with skins. And the drums we know from there are made from cow skin. But here, many make drums from goatskins. There are other places where drums are made from the skins of various animals. So, as yet, we still don’t have a clear answer as to actually what a drum is. Each person will provide an explanation according to the way they make drums in their particular area.
So let me tell you what was going around my heart when we were praying through the drum. Yesterday I was explaining that a drum is something more than an instrument. Even the government can’t just say “drum”and stop there. When they say “drum,” they say “drum and culture.” Isn’t that right? “Drum and culture” W hat is seen then is that in a drum there are many things. We recognise that within the drum… if you go among the ruling chiefs in Africa, even here in Tanzania there is a chief Mzengo… nearly every tribe has its own chief… but in the house of a chief, it’s certain that every chief, be he African or Tanzanian, in every house of a chief, there is a drum. So in the drum there is its own type of ruling. And the drum has strength for ruling. So when the king was sad, the drum told us to sing sad songs. And people danced a sad dance. And others where weeping and crying to show their sadness, but it was this drum that was leading them in their sadness. So you could hear a beat (rhythm) before you arrived and know, okay this is a very sad beat… this is a very sad beat… maybe someone whom the king loved has died. So people heard the drum and the morning at one time.
And this is the way it is for the king when he has a celebration or a wedding for his son or himself, there will be a drum for the king. And that drum will be played by the obedient player with great joy to show what is taking place for the king and his people and that community and tribe. So the drum is the demonstration (manifestation) of the joy that is hidden in the heart of the people.
Think about the drum… they are taken to the airport and are played to welcome the visitors coming from various countries. And I have seen that when the president and others visit parts of the country, drums are played, aren’t they? And what is played demonstrates what is inside them for the leaders. If they are experiencing hunger, they play the drums and sing and through the drum and song tell the leaders about their problem. They ask for food through the drum. We ask for medicine through the drum. So the drum can be a way to pray/ask for something. (Much agreement and clapping). It is a way for praying/asking even the government. If Mkapa (the president) were here, we would tell him about the drought situation here through the drum. Through the drumming that makes him happy, he would hear the song that my children are hungry, the fields have dried…maybe the roads need to be repaired. So within the drum there is a need to explain the sorrow you have, the worries that trouble you… they can be expressed through the drum. So what I came to understand while they were playing this morning is very surprising. That is, we the people of God have lost something, when the people of this world have not lost it. Drums can take us when we go to explain our troubles and explanations to someone we respect and love who has the ability to help… we use a drum. And he is happy when we play and our prayer/request penetrates his heart. Do you see then how the drum can carry us in prayer?
What I have recognised is that when the drum is played, a person prays in his heart, isn’t that right? In the heart, in the heart, isn’t that right? But I reached a place; it’s not the heart any longer… I started hearing people begin to speak in tongues. Who told them to speak in tongues? The drums took them to the point of bringing an anointing upon them. The drum can bring down an anointing. This is a vision. This is a sure vision and it is a sure vision. It is important for us to grab hold of the fact that drums are used to play to the king and inform him of our troubles. We pray lots, we have hunger, we ask for help educating our children and they are received when presented through the drum.
And I have seen with my own eyes through the TV and even I was one of them myself… when I was still studying I was a good cultural drummer and dancer and did so when the president and vice-president were visiting. We really danced and wore a belt and really danced. The leaders sat in seats and watched and listened and began to laugh with happiness. In a normal conversation what could you say to the vice-president to make him laugh with joy? But when the drums start, he gets happy and laughs. At the end, he is happy and claps his hands and turns to his partner and says, “These are such great drums.” But the message has been received.
So when we begin to play the drum and the Lord is sitting on his throne, and we have our problems and we need the church to grow and we need blessings in our homes and we need people to be saved and we begin to play the drum… what do you think? When we play the drum in church, we play it to the Lord. Even without using words of explanation, our hearts have sorrow or joy for the Lord… we can play the drum before the Lord and show him what our troubles are. The drum will lead us. How do you think the Lord will feel?
I learned so much, so much. It is just the drum. What I have recognised is what Jeff was explaining a little… don’t just try to follow the prescribed way, leave room for the spirit… it is a praise, it’s praise and worship for God and he will enter in there. It is the spirit if God that knows how to pray better than a man. And he himself prays for us. We don’t know how to pray, but we just make ourselves available for him to enter in. What I have recognised is that the prayers themselves began to along with the drum and I didn’t lose one word and received all of our problems without them being spoken out or ordered. When I finished there I said, oh my, all my problems have been spoken out… I have spoken out all my problems without knowing or remembering what I have been saying. And in the prayer I felt the strength of the Lord come down. Who else felt the strength of the Lord as I did? I definitely felt the strength of the Lord. I felt I was moving forward and forward in prayer and if the drum had continued being played, I would have fallen to the ground. I began to feel as if I have already been lifted up… lifted up by the drum and I would have fallen down and worship the Lord beyond the normal.
I don’t know, but this is a vision… let’s ask the Lord… there are so many things. And I believe this is one of those things.
I witnessed once in Kenya. There was a war of sorts between two tribes over cattle. They lived very near to each other and both had cattle. They didn’t like their cattle leaving their land and entering their neighbour’s land. The problem was a shortage of grass. When the cattle crossed over into the others area, it forced them to go and fight their neighbours. I want to tell you what I saw myself when I was there for practical mission. When they began to prepare for war to fight with their enemies, they call the young strong men. They dressed in their dress and began drumming. The drums were played and they danced and danced. They all began to jump and jump. The drum was giving them the message for shooting arrows. They jumped and shot, jumped and shot this way and that. This made them mean. And when the drums began to play again they entered into to war without any command. When the drums played they ran into battle, all in a line just like this… and when they met their enemy they hunted them. I was surprised… and I remembered this today when we played the drum. A drum can take us into war. A drum can lead us into a place of rebuking demons. When drums are played our voices will rise and the drum will say BOOM-BOOM. When the drum says BOOM-BOOM, we will say “away Satan.” Oh I went so far in our prayers and remembered things I had begun to forget. Here in the church were we have a spiritual battle to pray and fast and rebuke the enemy.
The drum is far more than an instrument. The drum is more than the customs. The drums unite customs with other customs. Look what it was like here… during the prayer with the drum I began to ask myself “Where did these people practise this?” Someone from Ireland and Mnase… where did they practise this? But when the drum begins to play in the church… it becomes one unit, one nation, one tribe. And all the rest of us followed along in prayer. No one said I am praying with the Irish drum, I am praying to the Gogo drum. We all went together. When one drum slowed, so did the other… there was togetherness there in the drumming. The drum is more than just thoughts. So don’t let the drum be a weak instrument. The drum is a huge instrument. We need it in church.
I remember my home area. You all have a drum, okay, but we also have a very large drum, so much so that in order to lift it one must be strong. The drummer too must have muscles to play it… and the dancers as well. What I am trying to say is this. If a drum is played in this village, it could be heard as far away as the next village, isn’t that right? It has a voice greater than our own. A drum is more than we can imagine. A drum is a very powerful instrument. It is an instrument that brings a lot more than we first imagine. So lets bring the drum into church for the Lord.
Lets not think that drums are somehow dirty. There was a pastor I really disagreed with. He asked why I could use a drum… it’s used in the dark things of our culture and in manipulating evil spirits and many, many other evil things. Then I thought, wow, Satan is able to lock us into stupidity. I asked him, well if you don’t like the drum being played in the church, what instrument would you like, that is particularly holy? He said I want to get a keyboard. I want to get a guitar. If I could get a piano I would be so happy. Then I told him that all these instruments have been used in service of Satan. If you go to the bar you will find the guitar. If you go to the really big disco you’ll find the keyboard. I don’t understand what you are doing here, I said. All these are used nationally in service of the devil. Let’s go this evening and we will find all of these things being used in evil ways.
All that matters is we use our instruments in service of God. If someone else wants to use it for Satan, woe to him. Any created things can be used in evil ways, but we can use them in service to God. Our own minds can be used to think bad thoughts, but we can also use them in serving the Lord. So it is up to the one using the instrument to decide how it is to be used, either for the Lord or for the enemy. So I believe you will use all you have for the Lord.
That’s nearly all I have to say. Sorry for tiring you. But the drum is more than the drum. Beginning today, I have understood that the drum is more than the drum. When I began to ask myself these questions, I remembered something very surprising. “Drum” in my language (Kiha), when you say the word “drum” in my language, you have to give an explanation because people will not understand what you want to say. “Drum” means the actual object, the thing that you hit. But in this very same language it means “Kingdom.” When you say “kingdom” in my language you are revealing (donating) the drum. When you say the word “drum” you are revealing the “kingdom.” I started understanding something amazing… the drum is more. I was strengthened inside and began to understand things beyond the status quo.
The Lord can give us the guitar and the keyboard and other modern instruments, but lets not forget the drum! I remember one day I was a bit mean with someone. We were going to a nearby village. He told me he forgot to bring the drum to the service. I said “What, you forgot the drum?” We didn’t forget our bibles, how is it that we forgot the drum? The drum too is a big part of the service. It is suitable to be used in worship. I have seen services where they were used and also where they were not used. You can sing choruses and songs without the drum, but when the drum is used it adds another dimension. And this is how I believe the Lord sees this.”
Enjoy this fantastic French documentary called Latcho Drom (“safe journey”) that brings a little insight into the journey of the Romany people through musicians and dancers (there is very little dialogue). I love how the musical sound and styles have evolved as the communities have wandered from India, to Egypt, Turkey, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, France, and Spain.