Djembe Thanksgiving – Part 5

February 1, 2010 at 8:17 pm 1 comment

Djembe Thanksgiving
Part 5:
Drums in Church – Some Concluding Thoughts

Read Part 1: The Drummers and Joe
Read Part 2: Kurzweil Jeff
Read Part 3: Oy! Logistics, Permissions and Switzerland, Oh My!
Read Part 4: A Joyful Chaos!


Kemi Awosile

My friend Kemi Awosile put me in contact with Steve Okwor, an African drummer who organized the drummers for our Thanksgiving Day service at The Mother Church (TMC).  She had sat in and drummed with this group before, and so I asked her how she felt about her experience.

Kemi said, “I am in awe of the communication that occurs when two or more people sit down to drum.  The inner and outer rhythms, the call and response back and forth and the pure joy of working together and off of one another all leave me breathless and spell bound. For me, it is miraculous and magical to get to play with these folks.”

I love Kemi’s thoughts on this.  She understands the sense of connecting and community that African drumming expresses.  I believe this sense of community is a feeling that many people yearn for – in certain moments – to worship and celebrate that which is sacred together.

Joe Galeota

Joe Galeota, our leader of the drum ensemble, is also a worship leader in his own church.  Joe says, “Drumming is a way to connect people to the worship of God.  It’s a way for them to express their emotions about how they feel in praising God.  And it’s a celebration.”  He also reminds us that the Scriptures are full of references about praising God with cymbals, tambourines, zithers, gongs, trumpets, flutes, and cornets, etc.

Just imagine!  Throughout the Bible, people gathered together — just as we do — and they played instruments and sang hymns of praise — just as we do!  Feeling, perhaps, some of the very same joy that they experienced, connects me that much more firmly to the Bible, its stories and spiritual insight.

Tamie Kanata, one of the African drummers (from Japan) says,  “When Steve Okwor asked me if I wanted to join this project, I immediately said ‘Yes!’   I also took the invitation with a sense of an honor.  True – I am not an African.  So why was I even invited?

Tamie Kanata

I somehow felt that I had an important part to play in this initiative  — which was, as I soon understood, to freely express my love for God, His powerful law, and my worldwide family – across boundaries, both visible and invisible. I felt that this particular project expressed such a divine motive, very naturally, through music.

Good music is often so immediate – it comes right through your heart.  I also think good music challenges us – wakes us up and stirs something in us that moves us forward.”

Before entering the ministry of Christian Science nursing, Tamie was a university professor of Intercultural Communication.  For me, she expressed so eloquently what I think we all were feeling:  a  great sense of unity —  and love for one another — shared in a uniquely local and global experience.

Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer and founder of Christian Science has much to say about music.  My favorite quote of hers is short and profoundly to the point.  She says, “Music is the rhythm of head and heart.”1

African drumming is a natural way to express the “rhythm of head and heart.”  I think it is also a natural communicator of purpose, conviction, and joy.   There was great purpose in reaching into the resources of our local church community to share some folks’ innate gift of drumming.  There was great conviction in the desire to unify our global congregation while highlighting diverse cultures within our church services.  There was great joy in the process of achieving this.

I believe deeply that music of all cultures comes from the same divine Source.  It illustrates the infinite capacity of all of God’s children to express and reflect in varied form the goodness, creativity and perfection of Soul.  (I often think of Soul — a synonym for God — as expressing the music and art side of God.)

Mrs. Eddy is inclusive of all cultures and traditions when she says:

Whatever inspires with wisdom, Truth, or Love–be it song, sermon, or Science–blesses the human family with crumbs of comfort from Christ’s table, feeding the hungry and giving living waters to the thirsty.”2

On Thanksgiving Day 2009,  African drummers and their drums came from within our community to join with the TMC musicians, digital keyboards, a three-manual pipe organ, the Readers and the church congregation.  Together, we made “a joyful noise unto the Lord.”3 We served “the Lord with gladness!”4 and we entered into “His gates with Thanksgiving.”5

So, looking forward into 2010, should we include drums again in the service?
Emphatically yes!… In a heartbeat!… And a drum beat too!!

Singing and Drumming at The Mother Church: Doris Olawuwo, Tamie Kanata, Nathan Frederick, Joe Galeota, Koblavi, Teresa Ambugo, Steve Okwor, Curt Wahlberg, Beth Schaeffer, Julia Wade; not pictured: Bryan Ashley, Jeff Williams

1Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy, p. 213:25
ibid. p. 234:1
Psalm 100:1, The Bible; King James Version
ibid., Psalm 100:2
ibid., Psalm 100:4

This concludes the Djembe Thanksgiving Series.
Read Part 1: The Drummers and Joe
Read Part 2: Kurzweil Jeff
Read Part 3: Oy! Logistics, Permissions and Switzerland, Oh My!
Read Part 4: A Joyful Chaos!


Julia Wade is a Recording Artist and Director of Digital Sheet Music

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Djembe Thanksgiving – Part 4 Songs of Spring

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. G from California  |  April 17, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    As music chairman and longtime soloist, I have been working to expand the concept of “appropriate” music for our rather conservative church. The work has been gradual (not to push folks too far out of their comfort zone at one time) and greatly helped by the wonderful compositions and recordings of contemporary composers and artists – including you and Peter, of course!

    Some of the solos have included a guest flutist, been accompanied by guitar, or been sung a capella. We have brought hand clapping and swaying into some of our newer hymns. And at one Thanksgiving service, our final hymn was “In Praise of Our Creator”, a blended worship medley by Mark Hayes. I took turns with the congregation and we all finished together, gloriously.

    This may sound like baby steps, but we have come a long way from the time when we were stuck in 1940s-style music and only an organ was considered an acceptable church instrument (although I still love, and use, those more traditional solos). And folks have been appreciative.

    Your Djembe Thanksgiving Series has thrilled my heart. I wish I could have been there in the congregation! Was a recording – or better yet, a video – made that would let others enjoy that wonderful service? If so, I would love to share it with my church family.

    Thank you for all you have done to “grow” the music in the Mother Church. Would it be possible for you to extend my thanks to all who are involved in this ongoing musical mission? I try each week to listen to the rebroadcast of the Sunday Service, from start to finish – from Bryan’s first note to his last. It adds so much inspiration to my week!

    Blessings and warmest appreciation to all


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