The Dance of the Drummers
Sentences in which drumrolls echo
Choices, life is full of them. Even children, no matter how young and where they live, have to make choices. In this book Hans Hagen shows what choices there are for children in Ghana. He reveals beautifully how important oral tradition is to this society. Six children are given the opportunity to become apprenticed to master drummer Dudu Addi. On the basis of their own story each has to choose a colour and a drum that fits him or her. In this way they are initiated into their own culture and become full-fledged members of that culture. This makes the story resemble an initiation rite.
Hagen shows that a subtle and poetic story can be told even in simple language. The stories of the six children give the book a solid structure with a splendid climax. At the end the children beat a roll together, but each on their own drum. One of the stories has vital consequences for three blind family members of one of the drummers. A wish made on a falling star has come true.
In the beginning there is a subtle mention of ‘eleven eyes’ that see. It’s only some five pages later that the reader discovers what was meant: Sinti has lost one eye. This has everything to do with the colour of his drum and with his story about losing his eye, as well as with his courage. The fact that he can tell this story himself has a therapeutic value that doesn’t need to be spelt out. This is equally true of the other life stories.
Philip Hopman’s illustrations contribute significantly to the lyricism of the story. The book’s narrative structure is emphasized by a portrait of each child at the beginning of his or her chapter.
Jant van der Weg