Drummer Tells All Kinds of Stories

Drumming, storytelling brings people together
Therese Apel, The Clarion-Ledger 11:32 p.m. CDT September 21, 2014

Jerry Jenkins knew from the time he was young that he wanted to connect with his heritage, but he didn’t realize until he was older how much that would connect other people of all descents to each other.

Jenkins…plays West African djembe drum ensemble, which utilizes traditional instruments and rhythms to tell stories of the African people. He explains that different rhythms can be used to signify different characters, different parts of the day, different actions, and as the story is told, the rhythm ties the pieces together.

As a younger man in Chicago, Jenkins said he heard a lecture on why it is important to be well-rounded, and it resonated with him.

[A]t some point Jenkins traveled to New Orleans to see an African opera.

“When I heard the drum and saw the dance and the songs and the story, I knew that this was the part of my culture that I lacked. I had a close friend that introduced me to the African drum,” he said.

He began to study the art, and before long he was performing and teaching it.

“We use an interactive story so the mothers, fathers, and children become the characters of the story. We bring them in as characters, and we guide them around the story and they actually play out parts,” he said.

“Djembe” actually means “come together,” and Jenkins said the art is a reminder that we are all ultimately part of the same family. The music, the story, the cultural appeal brings us back together as a family.”

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