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I Hear Joy

Connecting with My Ancestors

By A'Dia G

There’s intensity in the sound. The sound of drumming. As I listen to the melody created by drums, a soft melody slowly turns into an upbeat rhythm. My ears pick up the call and response chants that the drummers speak over the strong, fast music. I notice that a story is being told. I watch, trying to capture the scene in front of me as the dancers move to the powerful beats. It reminds me of home.

As a native Washingtonian, I connect with the similarities of the sounds I hear in Go-Go to those of the African drums. There’s a sense of nostalgia there. It takes me back to when I was a child. Listening to Go-Go in my Auntie’s car, with the top down during summertime. Or my favorite, sneaking to the basement late at night and dancing to the rhythm of Congo drums, during the adults only party. Nothing can top the overwhelming feeling of joy that I get when I hear drums.

(L to R: Drumming adds to the intensity of a wrestling demonstration in Dakar, Senegal. An amazing welcome in the Fulani Village (Senegal) with music and dance. Excellent performance by the drummers and dancers at The Wild Monkey in Banjul, The Gambia,)

I didn’t know what to expect visiting my first west African countries of Senegal and The Gambia. However, I did know that I would hear a lot of percussion. From small to large, handmade to professional grade, I hear drumming everywhere. The sounds are music to my ears and I love every moment of it. Through the streets and villages, I hear the drums. The catchy beats from the small hand-held aslatua (pronounced us-la-twa) makes me smile as I visit the island of Gorée. It makes the journey to see such somber history a smidgen brighter. The greeting of drums and dance make my heart soar, a joyous occasion it is, a naming ceremony in the Fulani village. If you listen close enough, the air is buzzing with happiness, welcoming me home. It’s moments such as this when I feel most connected with my ancestors.

Now as I sit and watch the show, I hear the beats on the Congo drums quicken. Through the performance, I can hear their shouts, their screams and their praise. Most of all I can feel their joy. As the drumming reaches its climax, I feel the pure rhapsody of it all. The connection is there, as it always has been. And I can hear their joy through my joy.

Photography by Carey Bradshaw

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