The convergence and convenience of talent, traditional knowledge and performance in the Chewa drumming tradition

  • Grant Nthala
Keywords: Theory, drumming, skill, tone quality, charm, mnemonic rhythm


The research that I conducted to support this study aimed at investigating,  documenting, describing and analysing the drumming practices of Malawi’s Chewa ethnic group, vis-àvis the elements that constitute the Chewa art of drumming, the application of this art in the traditional medium of music and dance, and the adaptation of the art by Malawi’s contemporary music performers. The research focused on the ethnographic study of drumming artistry within major Chewa dances of Mganda, Gulewamkulu and Chimtali. Consequently, among others, the study established that talent, skill, competence or aptitude alone do not necessarily constitute adequate merits for a good drummer. In addition to understanding and applying the different technical drumming interpretations effectively, the Chewa drumming student is tasked with acquiring various aspects of traditionally prescribed self-protection knowledge as a performer, and with carefully executing the different sound combinations and their meanings. In general, the Chewa drumming processes operate through a nexus of traditional and mystic beliefs regarding drum construction decisions, drum handling, material choice, sound production and relationships that exist between the drum and the entire performance experience.

Kewords: Theory, drumming, skill, tone quality, charm, mnemonic rhythm


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1016-0728