Drumstruck is a rare opportunity for the whole family, from the very youngest to the oldest, to get stuck in and have some active fun together. This South African group of musicians, singers and dancers, billed as the first ever interactive drum-theatre experience, have toured as far afield as Japan, New York and Australia but this year marks their debut at the Edinburgh Fringe. With bongo drums on every seat, most of us couldn’t resist giving them a try, knocking out a few beats as we waited for the show to begin.
Already there was something of a party feel in the air, but this show did not rely on the drums alone to create an atmosphere, there was singing and dancing, a surprise or two and a storyline to hold it all together. The Drum Maker and storyteller, played by Freedom Bongumusa Mswane, began his tale with the drum, which was itself the beginning of communication. The drum also seemed to symbolise the concept of ‘Ubuntu’, which lay at the centre of the story. Broadly meaning respect for yourself, others and most importantly your community, everything suffers if the spirit of Ubuntu is lost.
The Ubuntu Queen and her people, who she prefers to hug her rather than kneel to her, live in peace and harmony until the unexpected arrival of gold creates a disturbance. In the rush for gold, the drum is broken, the people divide and compete and their Queen begins to die. Peace, and the Queen’s health, is restored once more when the drum is mended and the people unite. This was a performance that miraculously gathered everyone together in participation.
With Tiny Modise as the Queen conducting her people and the audience to act in harmony, we drummed and chanted eagerly, impelled by the sheer force of her infectious and engaging personality. The quality of the dancing, acapella singing and, in particular, the drumming was stunning.
Wendy Oldfield, South African singer and winner of several music awards, emerging in disguise from the audience, also added a terrific, soulful dimension. The drums on seats ensured that everyone was able to join in the fun, and it would be difficult to find another Fringe show that embraces the audience in such a feel-good atmosphere of communal togetherness.
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