Friday, April 19, 2019

Djembe (Drum With Us)

Djembe The Show is a high energy and exciting interactive drumming show that has a lot to recommend it.

It's making its premiere in Chicago at the Apollo Theatre for a limited run.

There is a drum in every seat at Djembe
Audience is encouraged to drum along!
•  It's interactive.  There are djembe drums at every seat, and there are portions of the show where the audience is invited to drum along.   It's a lot of fun, although it does take a bit of will power to NOT drum during the non-invited parts!

• It's educational.  The show takes you on a worldwide history of the djembe beat, stopping down in places like Brazil, Cuba, America, and the Middle East.  It draws a pretty straight line from African drum music to ragtime to pop hits.   

• It's masterful.  The drummers in the show are fantastic, especially the African drummers Fodé Lavia Camara and Abou Sylla.  Singer Rashada Dawan is also great as she sings and dances. And Broadway star Ben Hope is very engaging and funny (although it was a bit of a weird choice to have this amazing show about African drummers, and they somehow MC it with a white guy who is clearly the least masterful drummer on the stage)
(and after drumming for five minutes, you get even more amazed at these drummers who seem to be able to go for hours.  Iron hands!)

•It's multicultural.  As mentioned above, the cast is a mix of races, and in the show, they go to a number of places.  The originator of the show Doug Manual is English and white and the director West Hyler is an American and white.  They touch down on a number of different cultures telling the story of the djembe beat.  And the support musicians are different ages, races, and (well, not genders.  There's only one woman in the show)

•It's fun.  You leave the theatre feeling energized and happy.  Part of that is the fact that you just made music with 400 other people.  That's a great feeling!

The night I went the audience had a great time!

My only criticism/concern about the show is the idea of cultural appropriation.  Even though a lot of African artists are involved in the telling of the story, there's a sense that the show is viewing this from an American sensibility, and not an African sensibility.  I personally don't have a problem with this, but I could see others having a problem, and I want to point it out.

From my perspective, I was so glad that I went, and I could totally see this as a show equally available for school kids or a family audience as well as an all adult audience.  It's a rare show that manages to crack that, and these guys did it.

The other thing is that it can get pretty loud with all those people drumming.  If you have sensitive ears, bring earplugs!

Djembe The Show is playing at the Apollo Theatre, 2540 N Lincoln Ave in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. For tickets and additional information, visit

You can also get discounted tickets on occasion at Goldstar.

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