The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

February 11, 2013

Girls bring drumming to Tamarack

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — The sounds of traditional African drumming pulsed through the Hulett C. Smith Theater at this week’s Sunday@Two at Tamarack.

A group of 15 young ladies from the Greenbrier Academy for Girls delighted a nearly full audience Sunday with their traditional African drumming skills.

Drumming coordinator Laura Bondurant said drumming has become an integral part of life at the Greenbrier Academy.

“Many people ask why do we do it every day,” Bondurant said. “Drumming inspires healthy rhythms and healthy relationships.”

Each girl stepped out onto the stage and stated her first name, where she’s originally from, and the name of her drum.

Their origins were as diverse as their drum names, from the Cayman Islands and New York City, to Cherry Baja and Laila Ali Jr.

Bondurant said they usually set intentions before starting the drumming, and she said they dedicated this performance to an artist they knew who had recently passed away.

Without further ado, Leilani told the crowd, “We hope you guys enjoy the drums as much as we like playing them.”

Their energy was infectious as the girls clapped, chanted and drummed impressive and fast-paced African tunes.

All decked out in traditional African garb, the girls made beating their drums look effortless and many of them laughed and smiled throughout the performance.

While Leilani was in charge of keeping the pace for the rhythms, each girl had a chance to showcase her skills during a mini-solo.

They took a short break after the “Welcome” rhythm, to rest their hands, let their drums cool, tell everyone why they started drumming, and answer questions from the audience.

Many of the girls said they enjoyed drumming because it made them feel connected to something greater than themselves. They said it was a great form of expression that left them feeling calm, but excited at the same time. Many of the girls also mentioned the great sisterhood they shared in drumming.

Eugene Ashe, of Beckley, asked how they kept up with the change of rhythms. Leilani explain-ed that many of the rhythms have a pattern and it’s her job to signal to the girls when a beat is about to change.

“Please take your drums with you and spread your music wherever you go in life,” Ashe said. “Thank you for bringing a different culture to West Virginia.”

Another audience member asked if the fierce and rapid drum beating hurt their hands.

They described it like training for a marathon — At first, yes, but after a while, you get used to it. They said their hands are all worn with calluses, but they said so with a smile.

The two girls with the most experience said they had been drumming for nearly three years, but even the newbie, Molly, looked as if she had spent her entire life with a drum in hand.

After the question-and-answer session, the girls played an original rhythm, which Bondurant said was the first time they had performed it in front of an audience.

She thanked everyone for coming and said the girls would perform one final dance and rhythm routine.

An audience member sighed audibly with disappointment and said, “I could sit here and listen to them for another hour.”

For more information about the Academy, visit www.greenbrieracademy.com.

Next week’s Sunday@Two at Tamarack will feature folk singers Doug and Shelley Harper.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com