Drummer will teach rhythms of Africa, slavery days

February 4, 2005
Keith Gill has always loved the sound of drums, the way their rhythm gets people out of their chairs and onto the dance floor. But he didn’t realize his own passion for music until he bought a drum set in 1992.
He joined a small drumming group in Denver and took his show on the road. “Gill the Drummer Man” now tours the state and teaches people to drum. He also explains the historical significance of drums in Africa, where he said the instrument originated. “I’m teaching the African experience,” said Gill, who grew up in Colorado Springs. “That’s part of my heritage, and I’m going to show people what it’s all about.” Gill and other members of the Black Hands Drum Ensemble will be at the Hillside Com- munity Center, 925 S. Institute St., from noon to 6 p.m. Saturday to play music with drums of all sizes. They welcome others to bring their own instruments and play along. If participants don’t have instruments, or don’t know the rules of drum-playing, “all you need is a pot and pan, a fork or spoon,” Gill said. “It doesn’t matter, because you just create this beat, and it becomes a rhythm to follow.” This is the fifth year the Denver-based group will visit Colorado Springs during Black History Month. Past drumming events have drawn about 300 people. It’s important to learn where today’s music comes from: rock, rap and even jazz music have drumming beats that came from Africa, organizers said. “It’s amazing to me. It’s like a rock-soup syndrome,” Ken Callum, facility coordinator at Hillside, said of the public drumming event. “You got your boiling rocks, then someone pitches something in, then another. Then, by the time you know it, there’s a beat. The beat comes and gets you.” At the event, people will learn some of the songs blacks sang during the days of slavery, as well as other ancient African spiritual songs. Gill, 48, said he makes a concerted effort each year to reach Colorado Springs because he feels he wasn’t exposed to enough black culture growing up here. “Colorado was always square to me.” Gill hopes his drum-playing will help others appreciate a part of African history that is not included in most history books. “It’s a beautiful sound,” he said. “It just picks you up. Before you know it, you’re dancing.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-1669 or lmartinez@gazette.com
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