Sounds of the winter holidays: Drums’ initiate Kwanzaa celebrations
Kwanzaa doesn’t begin without the drum, or at least it shouldn't, said Louisville-based masterful drummer Baba Kenyatta.
“You shouldn't start any event without the drum. That's how important the drum is,” he said.
Kenyatta explained that the instrument is connected to all aspects of life in African cultures, from cradle to grave.
“Whether it's a funeral, farming, healing, everything is done with the drum,” he continues, as he prepares to bring the sacred instrument to life with his own hands at Play Cousins Collective in Louisville’s Parkland neighborhood.
“We understand spirit as energy that possesses many frequencies, the high tones, the low tones… the balancing of those energies,” Iya Sango Ranoke, also known as Angela Jackson-Brown, said. She is the founder of the community organization GIVE.
“The drums represent that,” she said. “So it is the base of who we are as a human race.”
This month, LPM News is exploring the sounds and melodic rituals of the winter holiday season. For Kwanzaa, the seven-day celebration of African American and Pan-African culture and community, percussion is the heartbeat of the holiday.
“When I hear the drum, what comes to my mind is community,” said Kristen Williams, Play Cousins Collective’s executive director.
Williams says the drum signifies a celebration or momentous occasion is about to happen.
Kwanzza is organized around the Seven Principles: including unity, self-determination and purpose.
Play Cousins Collective is hosting Kwanzaa events all week long. And what Williams likes most about the holiday is that it’s more than parties and feasts; Each day has a comforting rhythm.
“I cannot begin Kwanzaa without the drums, and then I must ask an elder to get permission, and then we must pour libations for our ancestors,” Williams said. “We bring the children toward us to light the kinara.”
River City Drum Corp associate director Jerome Baker says everyone has an internal connection to the drum. But for him, it’s even deeper.
“In a society that’s attempted to erase our heritage, this makes me feel connected to something bigger than me that I can't trace on paper,” Baker said. “But I can trace that drum with every single part of it from the skin to the base, I can connect that to my ancestors.”