Learning to an African beat

Updated: 2013-12-22 00:08

(China Daily)

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Learning to an African beat

Zeng Liming leads his students in a drum circle in a square by Shenzhen's Nanshan Book City. Zeng is teaching children how to play the African hand drum known as the djembe. Chen Wenli / for China Daily

A Chinese teacher brings djembe to students in Shenzhen, Lin Jing reports.

Watching a group of Chinese children playing the djembe, an African hand drum, in a park in Shenzhen is an uplifting experience. The ups and downs of the beat and the exotic rhythm produce a variety of sounds, presenting a vivid picture of Africa.

For Zeng Liming, the djembe teacher sitting among the children, the instrument is not just a spare-time activity but a lifelong choice.

"I find spiritual sustenance in teaching djembe, and have a lot of fun," says Zeng. The 50-year-old is believed to be the first professional teacher of the instrument in Shenzhen.

"It has opened a new chapter in my life."

Originating in West Africa, the djembe was first used for important gatherings and ceremonies. Dje means "gather" and be means "peace".

The goblet-shaped drum, a part of African culture for centuries, has gained popularity in China in recent years. Shenzhen, in addition to being home to a large contingent of djembe aficionados, also has many teachers of the instrument. Zeng moved there in 2006 and discovered the drum three years later.

Zeng, who has a master's degree in chemistry from Wuhan University, inherited his musical interest from his parents, both keen students of Chinese opera.

After buying his first djembe, he used online resources to teach himself.

In 2010, a djembe player from Africa was invited to teach the instrument in Shenzhen, and Zeng was one of his students. Within a year, his skills had surpassed those of most other players in Shenzhen and now he is said to be one of the top three players in the city.

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