Friday, August 12, 2011

Otha Day: Drumming Circle

The theme of this summer's reading program here in Massachusetts was 'One World, Many Stories.' In addition to the usual logging of hours read, weekly drawings, and crafts at our library, there were also enrichment programs for enrolled participants and a culminating celebration. Our librarian, Miss Lisa, did and wonderful job of planning the many, many events and activities for the readers in our town from children to senior citizens.

I'm sure the library in your town had some great programs, too. Did you participate?

Our program culminated with a drumming circle lead by Otha Day. I'm sure you won't be surprised to learn this wasn't my first drumming circle and West African poly rhythms are a particular interest of mine. I own an authentic kelengu (talking drum) from Niger, West Africa and attended dancing and drumming sessions in Niger. (My sister studied traditional West African Dance in Niger). I even tried my hand at teaching poly rhythms to my grade four students. The thing is, I wasn't very good at teaching poly rhythms. If only I had met Otha sooner! Thank you Miss Lisa for bringing him to Plumb Library.

From the beginning, I could tell we were in the hands of a master drummer and master teacher. Otha provided drums so he could get everyone involved. He was kind and patient. He helped everyone find success and made sure we had fun.

His unique approach to helping us remember the rhythms stood out to me the most. He would teach us to sing a song or a phrase, then sing and drum the phrase, then sing the phrase in our heads but continue drumming the rhythm. I was amazed by how quickly we found success. (Let's face it, I'm not a very good drummer!) There were lots of smiles in the room, that's for sure. We learned rhythms from many places, including Japan, Brazil, and West Africa (Liberia, and if my memory is correct, Mali).

So my point is two-fold:
  1. If you live relatively nearby, please consider hiring Otha to come to your school, library, or homeschooling group. (He also works with corporations and wellness groups). Full disclosure: I never met Otha before our library event. He did not ask me to post this nor do I receive any compensation for doing so.
  2. Find out what your local library has to offer. This program was a win-win for my family: it connected learning about other cultures, music, and reading. Furthermore, it was FREE. Public libraries and librarians are some of the best resources our towns have to offer.  Our librarians know everyone in my family by name. They also know our taste in books and will recommend books they encounter that might appeal to us. Make use of public libraries. Support them.
Have you participated in a drumming circle with Otha? What programs have you attended at your library?


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