Children drum in sounds of Africa
Posted May 15, 2009

Rafael Anguiano

Nicholas Kienver, 2, of La Verne, played along with Steve Biondo’s West African Drum Ensemble Saturday at the Kid’s Music Club event in Founders Auditorium. The ensemble, taught by Biondo, teaches students traditional West African rhythms dating back to the 12th century. The Kids Music Club is an ongoing series of free educational concerts sponsored by the music department, offering children a chance to explore the thrill of live music

Esmeralda M. Cardenas
Staff Writer

Orange buckets and rattlers replaced the sounds of tiny feet as the children’s music club filled Founders Auditorium with music.

Members of the La Verne community attended the Drums of West Africa, a music club for kids, where children were able to participate in the concert with the West African Drum Ensemble.

“The kids music club idea was started as a senior project for a student and now Mu Phi Epsilon has decided to continue it because we enjoy the concerts and promoting music, especially in the community,” Sarrie Fleming, former president of Mu Phi Epsilon, said.

Mu Phi Epsilon, an honors society dedicated to promoting music, held the Kids Music Club on Saturday morning in Founders Hall.

With the help of the West African Drum Ensemble they invited members of the community to come with their children and spend the morning playing along and learning about the drums of West Africa.

Mu Phi Epsilon teamed up with the West African Drum Ensemble because of their success in past years.

Steve Biondo, instructor of the West African Drum Ensemble class, educated parents and children on where the music came from and how he taught his class.

“The music is primarily from the Malinke, a group that used to live in the Mali Empire but had split up and become Senegal, Sudan and New Guinea,” Biondo said.

“The music we play is 800 years old,” Biondo added.

Biondo taught the audience the name of the drums in order from smallest to largest.

Drum names are kenkeni, sangban and dununba, while a drum shaped like an hourglass is called djembè.

Biondo also talked about the three basic sounds the drums made called the bass, tone and slap.

Biondo explained the idea of the oral teaching tradition, which he uses in his class to teach his students.

He uses words and repetition rather than reading notes on paper.

The children were invited to play along with the ensemble on orange buckets and with shakers that were provided for by the ensemble.

“We did this a few years back and we had the orange drums left over,” Biondo said. “So many kids attended that we didn’t have enough for everyone on stage to play,” Biondo said.

At the end of their performance the audience was invited on stage to play with the drums and see everything up close.

The West African Drum Ensemble was possible in part thanks to the students who volunteered their Saturday morning to help Mu Phi Epsilon teach students and play for the audience.

“It feels good to see the children happy,” Aldemar Gutierrez, an ensemble student, said. “And they also get to learn new things.”

Esmeralda M. Cardenas can be reached at esmeralda.cardenas@laverne.edu.

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