Hitting drums and having fun in Rootead’s new youth ensemble


Children and teens line up outside the door to a sunny room in downtown Kalamazoo. As soon as they are allowed to, they rush in and pick up a variety of drums. They establish a tempo, playing faster and faster as the minutes go by.

The students are in the studios of Rootead, an arts organization from Kalamazoo known for its performances combining dance with traditional West African rhythms. He recently launched the Rootead Youth Drum Ensemble (RYDE), and these kids got together to try it out.

RYDE is part of the group’s mission to use art to facilitate healing, says Kama Tai Mitchell, Founder of Rootead.

“We hope to create spaces for internal transformation and we do this through drumming and dancing, birth labor, supporting people through their mental health journey and simply supporting the most oppressed of all. the possible ways. We’re trying to get there, without a creepy mission, staying true to our arts and culture, ”Mitchell said.

It is no coincidence that the group focuses on the drums.

“The first sound we hear in the womb is the heartbeat of our carrier,” Mitchell said, adding that the drum evokes this primordial sound.

“It’s so important that everyone remembers where they’re from,” she said.

When young drum instructor Nate Waller arrives at the audition, he tells the kids about his expectations. The first is the same as the last: have fun.

“We are drummers! ” he says. “We can hit things up and be out of trouble. This is the best thing ever!

The children applaud.

Waller shows a young drummer named Brooklyn how to hold the instrument.

“You’re going to slide that drum inside of you so that it tilts,” he explains, “and then you’re going to bring your feet forward. Just like that. Perfect.”

Waller shows students how to hit the drum with a slap.

“What you’re gonna do, Brooklyn, you’re gonna hit with your hand just like that, keep those fingers open, you’re gonna go up and down.”

Once everyone is caught up, Waller and the students play together, faster and faster until the sticks fly out of Waller’s hands.

“You lost!” a student told him. “I lost!” Waller laughs. “I was going too fast.

At the end of the practice, Waller urges children to Google perform Alvin’s Law, who drums with his feet.

“How are you better than me with your feet!” ” he says. “It’s crazy.”

The children put away their drums. Waller says he came to train in a terrible mood, but it didn’t last.

“You see me now. I’m smiling, just kidding,” he said. “I just finished playing the drums. You can’t be mad when you hit stuff.

Waller says children’s faces light up when they learn about the technique.

“That pop-up bulb when it clicks, seeing it’s like the best thing in the world,” he said.

Children interested in joining RYDE can contact Rootead. The group has announced its intention to launch percussion and dance lessons for adults in the near future.

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