Sept. 12, 2007
By Mary Reed
Photos by Rick Fatica
About 30 people are gathered around a circle of chairs and large hand drums in the Multicultural Center in Baker. Most of us have a look of excitement mixed with apprehension as we silently await instruction from Associate Professor of Music Paschal Yao Younge.
"I'm going to do something new today," Ohio University first lady Deborah McDavis declares, hoisting a beaded gourd. She's here for the kickoff world drumming party, a participatory drumming session that will take place here over the lunch hour every other Tuesday fall quarter.
"Today we are just going to relieve stress," Younge says. He tells us that he started learning to drum in his mother's womb. Considering the mostly white faces in the room, he's right if he assumes we didn't. So he starts us out with simple dancing, clapping and repeating after him.
With Younge's declaration of "Let's begin the party!" and limited guidance, we start hitting our drums, double bells and sticks. Dum dum dum dum. Ba da da da da da. Soon there are more people than drums. The pulsing rhythms expand to fill the room.
Younge stops us and the room falls silent. "Guys -- you have to enjoy it -- you look so sad. Mistakes are good -- mistakes are part of life."
We go at it again, this time striking our instruments harder. Ding! Ding! Ding! Ding! Ba da ba ba da! Smiles. Wide smiles.
Then, over the rhythms -- da di da di da da -- we begin a call and response.
"Sa sa sa oh!"
"Sa sa sa oh!"
BAM BOOM BAM BAM. The tempo speeds up. The drumming gets louder. People whoop and smile and break into new rhythms. I pound my drum hard with all the rhythm this white girl's got. Younge directs us to back off one by one and then build up again until the entire room is joined as one big drumming family. When it ends, we all cheer, having finally let go of our inhibitions.
"Arts are very important," Younge tells us. "Without the arts, we can't survive this planet." Ever the educator and entertainer, he ends the hour by gathering us in a circle to learn a game played by the children of Ghana. It entails a minimally complicated clapping routine that requires being in sync with the person to our left and the person to our right. Mostly failing, we are left humbled and laughing.
"I think it was a lot of fun and a great way to get relaxed before class," says Matthew Urminski, a junior specialized studies major who studied in Ghana with Younge.
Adds Karla Schneider, assistant director of international studies: "I don't consider myself a drummer, I consider myself an administrator. I did all right."
The next world drumming party will take place from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 25, and every other week thereafter throughout fall quarter. The Multicultural Center is on the second floor of Baker University Center. Drums are provided, and participants are welcome to bring their own percussion instruments as well.