Thursday, June 9, 2011

Drum Planet – One Beat, One World

African percussion provides a basis for universal communication for all human beings.
– Drum Planet

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On Tuesday morning last week, Tom and I had the distinct pleasure and privilege of visiting the Dapper Museum for a morning that included an animated, interactive percussion lesson and a private visit to the Angola: Figures de Pouvoir exposition.

Upon our arrival, we were offered a light breakfast buffet in the contemporary art exposition room, where works by Angolan artist António Ole are on display.

Breakfast Buffet
© Discover Paris!

Our server
© Discover Paris!

The beverages included a lovely jus de bissap (hibiscus juice), which I took for grape juice at first glance. This is a common drink in many parts of Africa.

Jus de bissap
© Discover Paris!

After chatting with representatives of the museum and fellow participants, we were ushered up the stairs to the museum’s auditorium, where the djembé rhythms were already calling us for assembly. When we entered the auditorium, we saw that each seat contained a djembé and a colorful plastic tube called a boomwhacker. Four drummers were on stage, beating their instruments furiously to get us into the spirit of what was in store for us.

The djembés were of various sizes and therefore emitted tones of different quality. The same was true of the boomwhackers, which were of different lengths that produced the same effect. The instructor, Alphonse Sehi bi Sany, asked participants to fill the seats at the front of the auditorium first so that he could interact with us more easily and so that the sounds that we produced would have more impact. He immediately asked us to pick up our drums and strike the heads to produce tonic and bass tones so that we could get into the spirit of the morning.

Alphonse Sehi bi Sany directing the audience with a boomwhacker
© Discover Paris!

About twenty minutes into our lesson, Alphonse asked us to lay down our instruments and do some stretches for our wrists and shoulders.

Audience loosening wrists
© Discover Paris!

He then asked us to turn to our left and reach out to the person next to us and provide a shoulder massage for that person. By this time, the audience was sufficiently engaged that it did not seem at all strange to perform massage on a stranger! Alphonse then asked us to turn to our right so that we could massage the person who had just finished massaging us.

Alphonse introduced (or recalled, in my case) the concept of “call and response” to the audience, and we practiced this throughout the lesson. Near the end, the drummers on stage provided the drum beats while the audience provided the boomwhacker beats for a stirring, interactive finale.

Audience with boomwhackers
© Discover Paris!

During this last musical interlude, the drummers truly gave us a show, with Alphonse providing a stunning performance.

After the drum lesson, a young man whom we met during the breakfast buffet took the stage and explained the mission of Drum Planet. The group conducts these musical sessions as team building events for major corporations! Its interactive drumming sessions help lift employee spirits, release their stress, build relationships, and improve communication among staff and between management and staff. All of this leads to increased efficiency and productivity in the workplace.

Ermann Zannou presents Drum Planet
© Discover Paris!

Upon hearing this explanation, I realized that the massages that we gave each other had a purpose other than loosening muscles and joints and relieving cramps!

After this eye-opening presentation, Rémy Pecot, the events coordinator at the Dapper, gave a brief presentation about the services that the museum has to offer with regard to conferences, film screenings, and other events. The Café Dapper, an open space located in the basement of the museum, plays an integral role in this function.

Though not the focus of the morning event, participants had free access to the museum’s extraordinary exposition entitled Angola: Figures de Pouvoir after the drumming session. This is the first exposition to feature Angolan art. Tom and I found the masks used during an initiation rite called la mukanda to be the most striking works presented. But there were also exquisite “thrones” and headrests, crucifixes portraying Jesus with Negroid features, enormous knives with intricate sheaths, and more. There are also numerous works from the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo on display. Photography is not allowed inside the exposition rooms. This is a must-see exposition that will remain open to the public until July 10, 2011.

Flier for Angola: Figures de Pouvoir

Drum Planet
93, allée Saint Héier
35000 Rennes

Musée Dapper
35 bis, rue Paul Valéry
75116 Paris
Internet: For events:
Metro: Victor Hugo (Line 2), Charles de Gaulle-Etoile (Lines 1, 2, 6), Kléber (Line 6)
RER: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile (Line A)

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