By Madison Medeiros
Rhythmic drumming flowed from the epicenter of the cafeteria on November 13th. A group of local drummers circled Tara Murphy, Cape Cod’s professional African-American dancer, as she sang and stomped her heart out to the West African beats.
In hopes of promoting her course offered at Cape Cod Community College (4Cs), Murphy, along with her group of drummers, organized the interactive performance. Between the hours of 12 p.m. and 1 p.m., students and faculty were welcomed to join in on the artistic expression, through dance or a group drumming circle.
“There are so many movements of honoring the Earth, and all of nature around you, that’s the part I love about African Dance and Drum,” said Murphy. “It comes from an ancient consciousness, where people were more connected to nature. They danced their connection to spirit.”
Cape Cod African Dance and Drum is a well-known assembly, offering classes, workshops, and performances throughout Cape Cod and the New England area. It is a popular art form and cultured expression.
Murphy studied dance and drum in Ghana, West Africa. When she returned to the United States, she practiced the traditions alongside many African and Afro-Caribbean artists, for twenty years. It has become her life’s purpose to honor these powerful healing traditions, and integrate them into today’s society.
“Somehow the ancients knew what was going to heal the body and mind,” said Murphy, who emphasizes the incredible mind and body benefits through group drumming.
“Having that constant vibration running through your mind, running through your body, it boosts cancer fighting cells, boosts your immune system, calms your nervous system, calms your brain, and just fills you with endorphins.”
Alongside Tara were her skilled drummers; Paul Simons, Fugan Dineen, and her husband, Chris Keniley, who appeared to be leading the circle.
“There’s so much to the drumming,” said Keniley. “West Africa is an endless tradition of unbelievably great rhythms and rhythmic culture and language. We’ve been exploring that, and we’ve been lucky to do it here at 4Cs.”
Murphy and Keniley offer an African Drum and Dance course at the college that meets Wednesdays between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. It is the first time in nine years that the course is being held during the day.The course promotes an opportunity to connect with yourself, others and ancient practices.
“If you learn African music, it really applies to any other musical studies. It is the root of rhythm, and it helps to really understand the music,” said Keniley.
The couple has arranged a trip to Mali, West Africa in January 2018, to be led by their longtime Malian teacher, Moussa Traore. They hope to deepen their knowledge and inspiration of the traditions, and harmonize them with their teachings offered in the U.S.
“We will have just been to the Motherland and have immersed ourselves in the culture,” said Murphy, who plans on working her revived knowledge directly into her course offered at the college.
Tara encourages all to join her class, no experience needed. It is a way to explore the history and culture of the West African region. In a supportive environment, students will learn to dance, drum, read ethnographic text, and even perform for the community. Participants will relieve stress by shaking their bodies or following a beat on the drums, all while encouraging positive energy and self-expression.
“We have so much to give, so many stories to tell, and experiences to share, and our knowledge of the tradition itself,” said Murphy. “It’s good to have the appreciation for all forms of music, from all over the world, and we invite you all to join us.”