The Legion Memorial Building was echoing Wednesday with the rhythm of drums – lots of drums – along with laughter and applause as Culver students were exposed to the benefits of drumming by master drummer M’Bemba Bangoura.
Bangoura and Wula Drum, New York City, conducted three class sessions and performed in the evening as part of the Spiritual Life program at Culver Academies. As a master drummer, Bangoura has traveled the world performing and teaching how to play the djembe drum.
Spiritual Life sponsored the visit to highlight the therapeutic benefits of drumming. It is known to relieve stress, depression, and balance moods. The endorphins released by drumming also help block pain receptors. The Director of Spiritual Life, Rev. Sam Boys, said Bangoura often visits children’s hospitals to conduct drumming sessions.
“Drumming is very spiritual. The drum brings people together,” Boys said. “There were moments when we all hit the groove together, call it being in the zone, flow state, or whatever – we all felt a tremendous positive energy in the room . . . feeling connected to our bodies, to each other and to the Divine Source of Life.”
During the class sessions, Bangoura also taught students a brief dance they performed to his drumming. He has choreographed pieces for dozens of dance companies throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean.
A native of Conakry, Guinea, West Africa, Bangoura started playing the djembe at seven years old. By 21, he was acclaimed as a master drummer and was invited to play for Ballet Djoliba, the national company of Guinea. He moved to the United States in 1992 and has become a major part of the drum and dance scene nationwide. Many of the people he has taught are now teachers themselves.
Accompanying Bangoura was Michael Markus, president of Wula Drum, NYC. As a musician, artistic director, and educator, Markus has spent over 20 years performing, teaching and studying West African, Afro-Cuban, and American styles of drumming. He has mentored with accomplished master indigenous artists and travels often to Guinea, where the Wula djembe drums are manufactured. Markus keeps the production in Guinea to maintain the craftsmanship of the drums and help with the economic development of the country.
The timing for Culver students could not have been better, Boys explained. “Because our students are so stressed out this time of year, it was perfect timing for this event,” he said. “It was like therapy – getting us out of our heads and into our bodies for a while.”
Along with the presentation at Culver, Bangoura will be conducting classes and performing Saturday in nearby Plymouth at the Wild Rose Moon. He will be presenting dance classes at noon, djembe drum classes at 2 p.m., and a performance at 7 p.m. There is a charge for the classes and drum rental.