18 February 2013 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

A passion for drumming

The drumming squad from Southern Cross Schools is built on the passion, rhythm and strong hands of its young musicians.

The drummers from Southern Cross Schools have won the Joubert & May Instrumental Trophy, presented at the annual Eistedfod in Tzaneen, four years running

It’s the beat that captures your attention – rhythmic, insistent and full of energy. And once it’s got you, it doesn’t let you go.

No one knows this better than the drummers from Southern Cross Schools in Hoedspruit. 'I joined the drumming squad at the school because I loved hearing them play; you get hooked on it,' says Grade 8 learner Sheldon van Zyl.

The squad plays djembe as well as other drums

The rest of the squad have similar stories – they all share a passion for the music they make together at their weekly drumming circle. 'We even drum on the tables in the dining hall, driving Mr Gibbs [college HOD] crazy,' says Liam Quinn, also in Grade 8.

Drumming is a widespread musical art form throughout South Africa. Djembe drumming, with its origins in West Africa, found its way into this school in Hoedspruit when it decided to find a musical form that fits the character of this African school, explains headmaster Ant de Boer.

We even drum on the tables in the dining hall, driving Mr Gibbs crazy.

The squad plays a range of compositions that are all created by the drummers themselves and then given titles depending on the stories and circumstances surrounding the origins of the tune. 'We start with the bass and improvise a lot,' explains Grade 8 learner Trystan Arthur.

Trystan Arthur, Zoe Macchiarulo and Samkelo Mahlalela

Watching and hearing how their complex rhythmic patterns unfold is mesmerising. The bass sound is produced by striking the drum with the palm and flat fingers near the centre of the skin. According to this simple Wikipedia explanation, 'tone and slap are then produced by striking the drum closer to the edge, and the contact area of the fingers determines whether the sound is a tone or a slap. For a tone, most of the area of the fingers and the edge of the palm contact the skin whereas, for a slap, the contact area is limited to the edge of the palm and the fingertips.'

Comfort Ubisi

'The strong hands come after you have bashed and beaten them for a bit,' laughs Grade 12 learner Zoe Macchiarulo, who has been drumming with the squad for four years. Along with strong hands, you need 'nerves of steel, passion and rhythm', says Comfort Ubisi, who is in Grade 11.

'We are exceptionally proud of our drummers, a motivated and highly talented group of youngsters that are certainly worth listening to,' says Sandy Schulze, team manager. 'They have excelled beyond our wildest dreams and have walked away with the Joubert & May Instrumental Trophy, presented at the annual Eisteddfod in Tzaneen, four years running.'

Shaun-Michael Preston, head drummer of the Southern Cross Schools drumming squad

Playing as an ensemble, with a lead drum, the squad manages to produce a range of complex rhythms, a universal language that involves 'a pile of fun', says squad leader Shaun-Michael Preston, who is in Grade 11.

The squad gives regular performances throughout the year; it has played at bush banquets, weddings, concerts and even on TV show Top Billing!

The school, a co-educational day and boarding school located on a 1 100ha private nature reserve in the small town of Hoedspruit, also hosts drumming circles where members of the public can join the squad and learn the art of drumming on djembe and other drums.

For more information on the drumming squad or to book them for a performance, contact Sandy Schulze at sandys@scschools.co.za.

You can also visit the school's Facebook page and follow them on twitter @southerncrosssc.

The squad plays a range of compositions that are all composed by the drummers themselves. All photographs by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Category: Arts & Entertainment

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