The Strongest Beats
Michelle Montaño '20
“The Power of Drum” is a truly ideal name to describe the concert that was held on Wednesday night at the Deane Carriage Barn. This event was produced by Michael Wimberly, and Bennington students had the opportunity to delight in the powerful melodies of drums performed by Will Calhoun, Jonathan Joseph and Ronnie Burrage-- all well-known and nationally recognized drummers and performers. This event was enlightening, not only because of the sonic strength of the drums and rhythm, but also because of the vigor of the message that these wonderful musicians brought through the beats of the drums. Calhoun, Joseph and Burrage reached both the minds and souls of the audience.
Music is a form of art, and this we know-- but this event also inspired me to think about the ways music creates cultural identity through storytelling. Corey Harris, an African American musician, aptly stated that “it was through playing the music that I understand: to know yourself you have to know the past, and to know where you are going, you need to know where you have been.” Music is an incredibly powerful source through which people can access their past, or learn their roots and history through a cultural ritual, tradition or practice. That is why this Wednesday concert was so powerful, not only as a music concert concert but as a unique storytelling event. Will Calhoun, Jonathan Joseph and Ronnie Burrage invited the audience to listen to the story of their lineage and then, “beat by beat,” expressed their experience of African diaspora. The drums became a language and music the means through which a story is told.
This concert taught me that, beyond solely their sonic power, drums are the strongest beats–– and a heart beat of a culture. It is important to emphasize that this event did not solely serve to provide knowledge about African-American and African culture and history, but also to remind us the value of learning and preserving the various African American cultural identities as well as the multicultural milieu we have at Bennington with the intention of developing a more inclusive and diverse community.