About this project
By backing Drum Casket in Bamako, you are building a relationship with me, my American collaborators and our Malian hosts. The cultural context you help provide will be rare and invaluable. Your financial support will directly compensate Malian musicians and working people as they will be integral to finding the necessary materials and helping with the construction and celebration of Drum Casket. This exchange and collaboration will be unique and substantial- on both ends. At the foundation of this project is an art or creativity capable of bridging people and cultures, and opening up conversations of commonalty, humanitarian efforts, and artistic voices. All of this in the spirit of fun and genuine interaction. As a modest independent project, Drum Casket in Bamako is at the formation of a very strong, sustainable creative endeavor with a long-term vision; a relationship and event that will inspire and support future successes and exchanges.
Drum Casket is scheduled to be built and played in Bamako, Mali, West Africa in 2012.
Drum Casket is a giant drum built big enough for for a person to be inside. A group gathers to beat upon the lid. The pulses of rhythm and the vibrations of the drumming are felt by the person inside. The drum itself allows air in and out of a port hole, like a subwoofer or kick drum. This air is felt on the face of the person inside. When that person is ready to get out, they reach their hand up through the hole to signal their desire to reunite with the group.
Drum Casket is a celebration of life, it is a reason to be with people for the sake of celebrating life. It was partly inspired by the western traditions of calling hours (the act of congregating to mourn with friends and loved ones) and traditional funerals. Most importantly, it is a celebration- a reminder of the spectacular event of living; the realization and appreciation of the being alive.
Drum Casket is a way to wake up the senses and play. I have been developing and having fun experimenting with this project in Ohio and New York. The footage in the video(Thank You Peter Richards!) is from an event I held in my East Harlem studio. My vision is that Drum Casket will be experienced in many ways with many different peoples. As it is still young, taking Drum Casket to Mali will be a rich and formative experience.
The cost of shipping is impossible. Drum Casket will have to be built in Bamako, Mali. I will be without my conventional resources and tools. To make this vision a reality, I will be working with local friends, musicians, and furniture builders in Bamako. I welcome this challenge and greatly anticipate the experience of working with such incredible people.
Financial support is needed to offset the expenses of travel, fabrication, and documentation. The success of this event in Bamako will establish a relationship of my work with a rich and diverse culture. By donating to this project, you are supporting my vision and a celebration for many people.
Upon my return to New York a Drum Casket celebration will be held in a gallery along side the documentation from Bamako. I invite you to share this experience and I look forward to bringing Drum Casket closer to you.
More about the video and Drum Casket in Bamako:
Last year I traveled to Bamako to study drumming with master drummer, Sidy Maiga. Sidy was born and raised in Bamako, a musical center amidst the hundreds of of influential ethnic groups, each with their own traditions, styles and stories.
While in Bamako, I documented the recording of Sidy’s Album, Malidén. The song in the video, “Sidy Doonkan,” is off this album. Its a variation of a traditional song in which the singer tells the story of an individual’s life.
Working closely with these musicians made a big impression on my understanding of music and collaboration. I returned to New York, with new and revived ideas- and the djembe drum that Sidy played for the recording.
The name of the djembe comes directly from the saying "Anke djé, anke bé" which translates to "everyone gather together in peace.” This is consistent with my artistic concepts, especially considering that peace can be communicated through powerful drumming.
Why a casket shaped drum?
One definition of casket is a box or chest for holding valuable objects.
Being inside of a drum gives one the chance to feel the music as much as he or she hears it.
I like the interactive nature of drumming with friends and strangers as a way of inspiring a sense of community and partnership.
I’m not sure what to think about death: As I experience western rituals of death, I understand the need for calling hours and paying respects. However, in these moments of mourning, I see how important it is to consciously celebrate our living experiences and relationships.
I’ve grown up in a culture that doesn’t have a clear way to talk about death. In all beliefs, there is a barrier that separates us, but also in some way allows us to connect with people that have passed. There are also barriers that separate us as people everyday.
In the case of Drum Casket, the barrier is the box, the drum. It separates an individual from the group. The ritual of a wake or paying respects at calling hours is transformed into synchronized rhythmic celebration of life and rebirth. The energy of the group is literally passed through the barrier and absorbed by the person in the drum. The person feels the vibrations of the drumming till they are ready to exit, they then, reenter the group. Another enters and so on.
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