African Urban Culture: Bucket Basics

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By: Stevanie A. Williams

There is a rhythm to everything we do in life, the way we breathe, the way we walk, the way we talk, how we communicate and move through our day. This rhythm is innately put into us as we hear our mother's heartbeat in the womb. Somewhere along the way as we come into ourselves the recognition of that rhythm is lost or tucked behind scars of frustration and fear. Artists Charles Watson, Jumoke Ajanku, and Stevanie Williams have found a way to reconnect young scholars of Baltimore City to their core sense of rhythm and instrumentation using a basic bucket and a pair of sticks. 

Four days a week, scholars from Pre-K to fifth grade sit down with these artist and learn to create poly rhythms (many rhythms coming together to make one) simular to those of traditional West African culture. All three artist incorporate information and knowledge of these rhythms, how they are played, the names of traditional drums, the meanings for each rhythm and how this music is the birthing place of the music that most inner city youth listen, dance to and enjoy today.  Through the use of the bucket scholars are shown how to use simple materials to make music. How to create their own rhythms and sounds that immulate life and put them together to make one beat that everybody can move to. 

Scholars around Baltimore are excited to participate and encouraged to use the bucket as a new instrument.  A tool to say that the best things can come out of using what you have and working together to make anything beautiful, funky, and fun. Being drummers themselves, Charles, Jumoke, and Stevanie not only instruct but play with the scholars as an example of teamwork and unity, giving each scholar a piece of what being a musician in the community is all about.  Each artist has a teaching style both simular and unique that gets the scholars involved and learning, excited to share with the school community and families in a performance given at the end of each quarter. 

African culture and Urban Culture have again become one, and through the use of the bucket and basic traditional drumming another generation has been given the chance to change and cultivate the sound and look of music.