Drumbeat in Our Feet
by Patricia A. Keeler and Julio T. Leitao; illustrated by Patricia A. Keeler
I tried an experiment.
Before opening this book on African dance, I put on Baaba Maal's Missing You (Mi Yeewnii). It didn't take any careful timing to be deeply into a discussion of ancient rhythms during the anthemic Miyaabele, a folk song artfully updated into a call for African unity. Maal pairs an acoustic guitar with soulful string instruments, plus a xylophone made more resonant by placing gourds underneath.
I found a picture of the xylophone, and many other instruments, in the book. By the time I got to the page about talking drums, my son had heard one, and any number of other pulse-quickening percussions. When the subject of call-and-response comes up, we had fine examples of that too, from children in Maal's Senegalese village.
I don't normally plug music here, but the CD is a perfect compliment to these splashy, energetic lessons on the origins of the dances, rhythms and rituals from across central and southern Africa. End notes explain how Keeler found Leitao, a native of Angola, at a dance studio in Harlem and persuaded him to create this feast for the senses.