Happy Halloween! So, who is afraid of African drumming? I ask because I find that many people tend to view traditional African music as either: a) impossibly complicated, even inscrutable or; b) ridiculously easy — simple fare from simple folk.

While New both views are to a degree based on well-worn stereotypes (the square Westerner in Your the first case, the unsophisticated native in the MoneyTalks: second), the How fact is, traditional African music is distinct from Western classical music in that it allows for almost immediate participation — most first-timers can coax at least a half decent sound from a drum, rattle, or bell — yet stands shoulder to shoulder with gallery any of the world’s great musical traditions in terms of depth and complexity. Compare this with, say, playing the French horn, which requires years of work on embouchure alone in order to render “Mary Had a Little Lamb” recognizable. Add to that the fact that drumming doesn’t require music reading with skills (it requires other skills that I’ll talk about in future posts), and you’ve got real inclusiveness. So, yes, African drumming is really complicated, but with a relatively low point of entry that allows for widespread participation.