Whether backing up the idiosyncratic soloing in a jazz ensemble, keeping the funky pace of a gospel choir, pulsing down the colonial streets of Salvador, or speaking to the syncretic, or hybridized, gods of the Candomblé religion; the drum is the quintessential instrument of Black America. Reconfigured from the bark and timbers of the New World, drums were deeply embedded in the lives and memories of enslaved Africans, who made the voyage across the Atlantic.
Afro-Brazilian culture is still very much shaped by sounds and rhythms drawn from the vibrations of tightened hides and hallowed out wood. There is the martial arts tradition of capoeira, which often involves two people engaged in a rhythmic dance in lock step with beat of an atabaque:
The spiritual knowledge tradition also relies on the sacred drumming of the Alabé, or spiritual drummers, that set the dancers down the path of enlightenment:
Even the streets of chocolate cities like Salvador can be showered by a procession of drummers that mark its many festivals and rites:
And let’s not forget the complex rhythms of la samba, which is played most fervently during Carnival, in the streets of Rio de Janeiro.
There’s something magical about the drum. Somewhere between two skins, air is vibrated to pulsating sounds that are deeply rooted in African culture, throughout the Américas.