Originally created 01/22/06

Pupils learn African drums at Millbrook



The Millbrook Elementary School pupils listened attentively as Joey Shokes talked about Guinea, a nation on the west coast of Africa.

"That's where I traveled," said Mr. Shokes, the artist-in-residence at Millbrook from Jan. 9-13. "That's where I learned my art form."

Mr. Shokes' visit to Millbrook was made possible by the South Carolina Arts Commission, which funds one artist in each school during the academic year, said Denise Spacek, a visual arts teacher.

Mr. Shokes, a professional drummer, described many of the West African drums to the pupils, such as the dundunba, sangba and kankini. The pupils repeated the name of each drum before Mr. Shokes played it.

"Now we have the smallest drum," Mr. Shokes said. "It's called a 'kankini.' Everyone say 'kankini.'"

"Kankini," the pupils enthusiastically replied.

Mr. Shokes also taught the pupils an easy way to remember what strokes to play and the rhythm pattern.

"Eat the big fish" was just one of the many phrases Mr. Shokes taught the pupils. Each word would signify the type of stroke to use to sound the drum, such as the bass stroke, which is played near the centre of the drum skin using the palm of the hand.

The phrase also was spoken in the rhythm to be played, with the syllables of each word matching the number of times the drum was to be sounded.

"It's very easy to learn West African music - if you got the right person that can show you," Mr. Shokes said.

Ms. Spacek said the experience provided the pupils with more than just a chance to have fun playing music - it taught them about an art form of another country.

"In this day and age, we all come from different backgrounds and the children aren't necessarily exposed to that all the time," Ms. Spacek said. "It's great for them to learn about different cultures."

Reach Nathan Dickinson at (803) 648-1395, ext. 109, or nathan.dickinson@augustachronicle.com.