West African Music

If you’ve ever spent time in our home, you’ve surely noticed our living room walls. One is covered with photos and art… and the other is covered with instruments.

Guitars. Mandolin. Banjo. Rain stick. And right next to them, a djembe from Ghana and an ottoman filled with other assorted kids instruments.

Allen grew up playing multiple stringed instruments… and I grew up playing the clarinet (and later, some guitar). From early on in our marriage, we knew we’d want music to be a priority for our kids. So instruments are always accessible to them and are played often.

We often get asked, “How are your kids going to adjust to life in Africa?”

One thing that we think will help ease that transition is music!

When we were in Ghana in January, we went to a djembe shop in the middle of the market. We knew we wanted to bring one home with us (as did others on our team), so we spent some time looking at them, talking to the artisans who carved them by hand, and then stepping into their shop and listening to a demo.

Ruth was running around playing in the dirt with a little girl…

… but when it came time for that demonstration, Ruth plopped right down in Allen’s lap and listened intently, playing along, eyes shining.


The performance was amazing. We sat in a little 6 by 8 foot shed (for lack of a better term), surrounded by hand carved, intricate drums. And the beating of the drums just surrounded us, reverberating off those little walls. They played for a while, changing rhythms and beats, people joining in and then stopping from time to time.

Allen and I were smitten by drumming then (and yes, found the coolest drum to bring home with us!). And to this day, if I start playing the djembe in the living room, Ruth will drop whatever she’s doing and run over to play it with me. She has pretty good rhythm, actually, for a two-year-old!

You may be wondering, “Okay, but what was Clara doing during the whole drumming expo?” Well…


… she was fast asleep in the ring sling the whole time.

Seems our girls will be right at home in the musical culture of West Africa!

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