If Malawi is the warm heart of Africa, then that heart beats to the rhythm of a drum. No matter where you go the rhythm of the drums are not far away, and if a drum is not available then syncopated rhythmic clapping takes its place.
Since arriving in Malawi with our assortment of western instruments, we have been keen to develop a rhythm section using some authentic Malawian drums. So we were delighted when Mutso, one of the young men in Echoes of Grace, agreed to have some made for us by a drum-maker near his village of Chileka. True to his word, a week or so ago Mutso presented us with these two carefully created and decorated drums that have since spent several days in the sun as they dry out and begin to achieve their true timbre.
Malawi has many cultures and Mutso tells us these drums come from the Chewa culture, with the larger called a Mpanje and the smaller a M’gunda drum. Typicaly they combine with two other types of drum in a 7 drum band bashing out heart-beat based dance rhythms.
Mutso was pleased with the results of his hard work as he had walked many miles to find the right sized log from the mbwabwa tree that is reputed to make the best sound, and then he had walked many more miles to find the right quality of cow hide for the drum skin.
Myles is keen to learn how to play these drums, so we were rather excited when Mutso and another member of the choir turned up to say hello this afternoon and gave us the opportunity for an impromptu lesson. You can make up your own mind about how Myles got on – all he is willing to say on the matter is: “it’s harder than it looks” 😉