Capturing the full attention of a group of pre-schoolers is not simple. It is something that you expect The Wiggles to be able to do. It must be about bright costumes and pop music and simple lyrics.
But founder and director of African Star Dance, Shabba, does something different – he transfixes with African drumming.
Using styles from traditional to hip-hop Shabba delights the kids with loud, fast, complicated rhythms that have them bouncing in their seats.
Shabba said that: “No one taught me to drum, but instead, I was taught to dance. I was about ten years old when I started to learn to dance in Ghana. Most children learn around that age, it depends on the life you have grown up with. I loved music when I was little, music and soccer. “
So the fact that children love drumming does not surprise him.
“Children are often sitting down in the classroom for so many hours, and when it comes to drumming, they want to go crazy and be creative.
“When a child starts to drum, you can see that it brings them happiness and different emotions, and teachers can see this too. When we start the drumming workshop (multicultural workshops) you can see that sometimes I am straight, then joking, straight, then joking. The children love it because it is mixed.
“I think the way you are going to teach needs to be flexible. Because I am an entertainer, I like to see the kids go crazy, jump around and see that they are doing something different. I am creative with the kids, always.”
It sounds to me as though the kids’ creativity and your own creativity is a joined force, but have you ever met a child who didn’t enjoy drumming?
[If there are children who are struggling] I will sit down with them and talk to them. I tell them how I grew up in my culture and I will tell them about how we grow up in our culture, and how we live, how we respect our teachers and our parents [in Ghana]. This is something all children want to know about.
Children want to see people in different cultures, and I don’t go to school with a computer, I go there with my drums. That is the different thing that children want to see.
How did your journey as an educator begin?
I was working in after-school care around Melbourne, in many different schools. When I came here to Melbourne, I already did a lot of drumming performance. The organisation wanted to work with me; I got a 5 Star Community Coach Award for the work I had done in after school care.
What do you most want a child to take away from your drumming workshops?
I want to leave them with a message. I want them to take a special frame of the culture, of my culture and a sense of happiness. The message is to bring our cultures together with music and dance, and the message is to keep music in the heart.