African Beats NZ has always been about teaching and spreading the love of African rhythm which would be accessible to all performance and education groups to post in, interact with and be part of a community either via Facebook or contacting me directly. I never really felt happy using African Beats NZ as a band/group name as I do not want African Beats NZ to be seen as being bias towards any particular group or people.
About a month ago I was asked to to get a wee group of like minded drummers together to perform for Africa Day here in Wellington. We are due to perform along side the Moringa Dancers and Robert Fugah on Saturday the 24th May 2014 and unfortunately the organisers of the event got a little confused between African Beats NZ and Nimba and were just about to print the programmes for the event with the incorrect group name. So I thought I might as well put a little more effort into a group name for this performance.
"OK, Time to be different", I thought. We really need to be known as something new and not African Beats NZ. Known as something meaningful and that represents who and what we are all about. I made a concious effort to not have African in the group name as none of us are in fact African, but a name that can be recognised as African in origin. Robert Fugah initially came up with the word NKABOM - (Togetherness in English), This was back in October 2013 and although I didn't really resonate with that as a group name, the name Togetherness stayed with me and has recently evolved into Unity.
Why Unity? Well Wellington is a small place for African drummers and often we will call upon each other to be part of a performance group, so an initial reason for liking togetherness is that I wanted to have the group name be something that indicates a oneness in the drumming community. I can pretty much say that we come from all walks of life, but when we play together as a group, we become one. Unified. An organic ensemble of rhythm that is totally unique individually and yet unified in its focus. Unity is what I feel African drumming is all about. We are not one person hitting out all the different parts of a rhythm on his/her drum kit. We are individuals bringing our individuality together to create a unique rhythm and sound.
Above all else, the rhythms brings people together, in dance, in singing, in community and in Spirit. That's why we do it.
And so Kubatana* (Unity/Togetherness) was born. Maybe this is the start of a few more drum/dance gigs? let's see, but whatever happens, we just love drumming together.
*Thanks to Chris Berry for the translation from English to Shona.