Kenny Mukendi, Alwyn Wade and their chaperone Joe Wills had travelled to South Africa on two different occasions on the same quest. However they never bargained on doing what would end up being a lot of fun at the Live Magazine offices in Braamfontein, but before too much is given away, let me tell you why these three adventure seekers took an 18 hour flight from London to Johannesburg with 6 Samba drums, earplugs and a bag full of blue t-shirts wit the words Drum Works in bold.
In 2007 a samba drum group from Brazil were hosted by the Barbican in London – one of the largest musical institutions in Europe. Primarily, the group travelled to london as part of a cultural exchange. But the folks at the Barbican had an idea to use samba drums as a means of cultural integration in the London inner city so Joe Wills and Ross Mcouall were tasked with starting a community based drum program. The aim of the program was to bring kids from all backgrounds together who would not usually socialize under “normal” circumstances.
The program started with secondary school children in inner city schools and gradually gained momentum. Soon enough, it began to grow exponentially. The success of the program, according Kenny Mukendi, is due to the fact that despite coming from seemingly opposing social backgrounds, a genuine love for music and rhythm allows for anyone and everyone to participate – from those with very little rhythm to the more musically astute.
The programme places a very high emphasises on integration so schools would share locations and they would occasionally have to travel to places they would not usually travel to. Alwyn Wade – who says he met Kenny, through the drum works program – also explains that many people have had similar experiences.
He also mentioned that being able to travel while simultaneously doing the thing that you love is the “best thing ever”.
Drum works currently has two main teams comprised of the numerous groups scattered across london. The younger group plays large festivals and concerts while the older groups play for corporate sponsors and at professional gigs. In addition to interacting with prospective sponsors at corporate event and galas or functions.
Drum works as a collective movement has been to Madrid and New York, they have performed all over the UK and have recently made a connection with South Africa. As a result Kenny and Alwyn plan to start a program in Johannesburg which they hope takes off as well as it has all over the world.
The Live magazine staff had a chance to experience the action in a small workshop held at the Live magazine offices in Braamfontein Johannesburg. It is safe to say that everyone had an amazing time and many of the interns and staff said that it should be a weekly occurrence because of how the energy levels increased and a general upbeat feeling resonated throughout the camp.
All in all, everyone enjoyed themselves and both Kenny and Alwyn hope this project can take place in Mzansi because we need positive input every now and then to remind us that it’s the little things that work. As a society we should support initiatives like these because of the positive social effect they have. Art – whether it is music, dance or painting – has entertainment value. But more than that, it can be a major catalyst for social and cultural integration which are necessary for creating an authentically integrated society.