The Master Drummers of Africa – Thunder & Lightening
Live at Stratford Circus 19-9-12
On Wednesday, 19 September 2012, East London was entertained by the world’s greatest drum Orchestra a.k.a, The Master Drummers of Africa – Ten drummers from ten African nations and fittingly, on the 10th anniversary of their inception as well as that of The London African Music Festival. Spearheaded by their legendary Guru and spokesperson Lord Eric Sugumugu, The Master Drummers of Africa, for nearly 3 hours brought 3000 years of tribal African culture and rhythms to Stratford Circus.
After a brief intro from Biyi, the man behind Joyful Noise Promotions, the master drummers led pied-piper like by their founder Lord Sugumugu, sounding a traditional African Horn. Once all the players had assumed their positions, it was left to the inimitable Lord Eric Sugumugu to address the audience and introduce the Master Drummers of Africa proper whilst noting the poignancy of the occasion marking the 10th anniversary:
“Happy family, welcome to the Master Drummers of Africa – This evening we’re going to take you on a trip and the program today Thunder and Lightning… So as usual, we’ve got a new ship – The Good Hope Ship…And we’re going to take you on this fabulous trip. We’re going to go all over Africa! We’re going to show you something; let you hear something; let you feel something; see something… So, happy family, welcome to the Master Drummers of Africa in this our 10th year…Happy family, welcome aboard the Master Drummers of Africa. Thank you!!”
After his opening soliloquy, Lord Sugumugu took his place behind his chest high African drums and proceeded to move the Master Drummers imaginary ship at its first port and country, Ghana. “We’re going to start with our first number, and this one is called “Praise Be to the King of Accord…” Moving from Western region of Ghana to the Central region, Lord Eric then introduced Yaw Asumadu who led the ensemble during the next musical offering – “The Welcome Song of Ghana, Greater Accra”
The song exploded with the full on musical intensity we had now become accustomed to. The various master drummers laying down their African rhythms with spirited fervour. It was native Ghanaian drum master Jojo Yates who took up the vocal reigns, with his fellow masters keenly following his lead.
Then senior Master Drummer Henri Goabi from the Ivory Coast took to the stage to perform traditional drum dancing to the delight of those gathered at the Stratford circus theatre.
Taking to centre stage, Master Drummer Goabi mesmerised the audience with an impassioned drum solo direct from the Ivory Coast. He stopped periodically to call out instructions and chant in his native language before applying himself even more vigorously to playing the drum skins wedged between his bowed legs.
Before the interval Lord Eric Sugumugu steered the Good Hope Ship toward Zimbabwe where Master Drummer Kudaushe Matimba was entrusted with navigating us through his native Zimbabwean musical waters.
Playing the Mbira or thumb piano, which is a popular instrument throughout Southern Africa, Kudaushe gave us a quick insight into the traditional Zimbabwean song they were about to perform. He subsequently led his crew members enthusiastically on their continued journey.
After a fifteen minute interval, the Master Drummers re-emerged stage left led out predictably by the ebullient Lord Eric Sugumugu, chanting in a call and response manner as they did so.
Once returned to their respective positions whilst continually playing, the drummers increased their tempo ten-fold whipping up the audience into an involuntary frenzy of seat dancing and the occasional chant and wail.
After we visited a few more countries, the Good Hope Ship finally docked in the port of Stratford Circus for the master drummers to perform their last and also title track of the evening, “Thunder & Lightening.” Written by Lord Eric Sugumugu himself, Thunder & Lightening is a twelve minute ode to all the African countries including his homeland Ghana.
Following a lively dance off between Master Drummers Henri Goabi and Yaw Asamudu and a grand finale that culminated in the entire ensemble taking a bow at the front of the stage; the Master Drummers exited the stage for the last time leaving the solitary figure of Lord Eric to put forth his final thoughts of the evening: “…May this music be the healing to help you make it through the winter until we see each other again. We love you! Thank you! Bye!” And with that the Master Drummers’ ten year anniversary concert came to end accompanied by well deserved rapturous applause.
Michael J Edwards
The Master Drummers of Africa are:
LORD ERIC SUGUMUGU (Founder/Ghana)
AYAN DE FIRST (Nigeria) AYANDOSU
KOKO KANYINDA (Congo)
HENRI GAOBI (Ivory Coast)
BUCARR NDOW (Guinea)
JOJO YATES (Ghana)
KUDAUSHE MATIMBA (Zimbabwe)
BABWAKU BIASONAMA (Congo)
YAW ASUMADU (Ghana)
NB* EACH MUSICIAN PLAYED AN ARRANGEMENT OF THE PIECE
Lord Eric Sugumugu – Kose Kose (CD)
Koko Kinyanda – Konkoma (CD)
Henri Goabi – Kaago (CD)