Sounds of a cowhide drum

8th June 2007 at 01:00
Children at Croftmalloch Primary in Whitburn have been learning about African culture, rhythm and dance as part of their work for their end of May show, Africa Rocks.

Drummers Sami Okoo and Douglas Hudson from Kenya visited the West Lothian school last month and spent a morning working with the whole of P6-7, introducing them to rhythm and song and showing them some African dance moves. Seventy children played the djembe drums and other percussion instruments.

"Dougie and Sam told the children that music was very important in their culture," says June Smolak, the depute headteacher. "They explained that it was about communicating their feelings rather than a set pattern of notes."

In the afternoon, Mr Okoo and Mr Hudson worked with six children who would be playing drums in the show, to put together some rhythms, and nine spirit dancers, to give them African dance moves.

Towards the end of May, a dance troupe of eight Masai warriors spent half a day at the school. They worked with P1-4 before the morning interval, then P5-7 until lunchtime. The Kenyan cattle herders were touring schools to raise money to improve education in their homeland.

The brightly clothed and bejewelled troupe showed the children how to make bangles from beads. The children based their show costumes on the Masai dress, tie-dying T-shirts and pillow cases in bright colours and making necklaces and bangles out of pasta and clay, as well as heavily patterned headbands. In art, they made African masks and scenery.

The African theme did not stop at the show. Classes have explored the culture, people, geography and food. Pupils interviewed Dougie and Sam for their newsletter, some wrote themed poems and researched Fairtrade products through eco and health committees. "Children get the impression from television that everybody in Africa is poor and starving and living in mud huts, but we looked at the contrast between the rich and poor and talked about life and schools in Africa compared to here," said Ms Smolak.

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