|Grade span:||4 to 8|
|Duration:||Two 45-minute sessions|
Description:This lesson is one example of how you can implement the practice of Thinking and Talking About Works of Art. In this activity, students learn how music can convey meaning, and how African societies use the music of the Djembe drum to communicate messages. Working in small groups, students will create their own messages using the Djembe drum.
- Understand how music can communicate various messages
- Learn about the history and uses of the African Djembe drum
- Identify and practice the three basic African drum tones
- Use African drum tones to create and convey a message
- Copy of Max Had Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney
- CD player and CD of African drum music
- Djembe drums (one for each small group)
- CDs of various music to demonstrate messages, such as:
- Current pop songs ("So Yesterday" by Hilary Duff, "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne)
- Traditional songs ("I've Been Working on the Railroad," "Clementine")
- Classical songs ("Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Bach, "William Tell Overture" by Rossini)
- Read Max Found Two Sticks.
- Select CDs/songs of African drum music.
- Review Djembe drum history. (See Resources for suggested Web sites.)
- Review drum tones so that you feel comfortable enough to demonstrate bass, tone, and slap:
- Bass: Strike the skin near the center of the drum with palm of hand. Remove hand immediately after the stroke, as if pulling sound from the Djembe.
- Tone: Strike the skin close to the rim with fingers together and hand flat. Hand should bounce off.
- Slap: Strike the skin close to the rim with fingers open and hand relaxed so that fingertips snap to the head of the drum. Fingers should bounce off immediately.
- Note that the slap has a high, sharp sound and that the tone is more "round" and full. Other notes exist, but only advanced drummers can consistently create sounds distinct from the others.
What to Do:Session 1
- Read aloud Max Found Two Sticks by Brian Pinkney. Discuss how and why Max uses music to communicate.
- Discuss how music, like stories and writing, can have a main idea. Play three music selections from different genres. Have students work in small groups to determine the main idea of each selection.
- Current pop song ("So Yesterday" by Hilary Duff, "Complicated" by Avril Lavigne)
- Traditional song ("I've Been Working on the Railroad," "Clementine")
- Classical song ("Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by Bach, "William Tell Overture" by Rossini)
- Divide students into small groups.
- Play one of the music selections again in full. You may want to print or discuss the song lyrics. As you listen to each piece, ask each group to fill out a Graphic Organizer (PDF) to record the main ideas and details of each piece.
- Introduce Djembe drums. Show a picture or an actual drum if you have one.
- Also known as "talking drums," Djembe drums are described as "waisted" because they have an hourglass shape, with a "waist" in the middle. Skins are stretched over the ends of the drum and held in place by many cords. When the cords are tightened, the skin is pulled tighter and the sound of the drum gets higher.
- Briefly explain that drums were often used as a communication tool to send messages from village to village, with different beats and rhythms representing words and messages.
- Introduce African Drum tones: bass, tone, and slap.
- Discuss how musical messages are created through the combination of tones and number of beats or rhythm. Play various African songs/rhythms on CD and help students determine a song's message:
- Quick, mostly bass = danger
- Slap, tone = celebratory
- Slow, bass = solemn (funerals)
- Divide students into small groups and distribute drums. Suggest that they pretend to be drummers in an African village who must convey a message. Groups should create a simple musical message using a combination of the three drum tones. For instance, the message could warn of impending danger, welcome an anticipated visitor, celebrate someone's birthday, or announce an important guest.
- Have groups play their messages before the class. Ask the audience to try to guess the general tone of the message.
Evaluate (Outcomes to look for):
- Student participation and engagement
- An understanding of how music can be used to convey a message
- Students' ability to identify the main ideas of various songs
- Students' ability to accurately replicate three basic drum tones
- Drum messages that convey a clear meaning