Give the Drummers Some

Mombasa Party and the Royal Drummers of Burundi. At UCSB’s
Campbell Hall, Friday, November 17.

Reviewed by Sara Barbour

Burundi.jpgThe woman walking onto the stage has
presence. Walking, however, is hardly an adequate description of
her movement — she glides, bobs, and swings her hips alluringly
with each tiny step. She exudes an aura of command, each nudge
forward rustling her brightly patterned skirt and demanding the
attention of everyone present. Behind her, three musicians
skillfully ply their instruments to create the swaying beat for her
slow advance, but she has just to execute a girlish twirl of her
wrist for all to see that the stage is her dominion.

Thus began a spellbinding night of music, rhythm, and
performance at UCSB’s Campbell Hall, led off by the smooth sounds
of Kenya’s Mombasa Party and brought to a pounding climax by the
Royal Drummers of Burundi. The two groups of performers brought
their musical offerings to life with a combination of rhythm, song,
and movement that showcased the energy and diversity of African

A quartet of artists whose voices and instruments brought to the
venue the native melodies of their home, Mombasa Party warmed the
audience during the first half of the evening with their
compositions and infectious smiles. Yet perhaps more endearing was
the respect and dignity that characterized their performance, an
aspect of presentation so often lacking in the conduct of Western

The Burundi Drummers, however, presented an entirely different
embodiment of majesty, one riveting from the very first thunderous
drumbeat. Athletes with arms that foretold of the group’s power
even before their incredibly intense routine caused jaws to drop,
the drummers created a mesmerizing string of rhythms that left no
ear untouched, bringing to the stage an energy that remained to
electrify the deafening silence that followed the final beat of
their long, wooden drumsticks. The performers rotated around the
semicircle of drums, each taking his turn at the instrument
positioned in the middle, and it was a delight to watch the leaping
dance of anticipation that preceded each attack on the central drum
that resulted in a magnificent explosion of noise.

At the end of the evening the exuberance and vigor of the whole
performance was carried out into the night air, the uniquely
captivating rhythms sustained long after the last drumbeat sounded.
It was an evening of diversity, melody, and excitement — and,
despite the contrast of their sounds, both groups infused their
performances with a humility that was beautifully inspiring and


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