N’goma literally translated means ‘drum’ and is a term used to encompass all local traditional forms of dancing, drumming and singing. There are literally hundreds of different n’goma styles throughout Tanzania, variations often being so slight that untrained eyes and ears can hardly notice the difference. A number of these originate from Zanzibar and Pemba and all are spectacular to watch.
The DCMA Ngoma group is led by Zanzibar’s drumming legend – Mzee Kheri Mohammed Kombo.
He grew up in the south of Pemba, with n’goma music in his family. His father was a healing doctor healing with drumming. As a child he was always watching his father and other people drumming. He started to follow every n’goma sound, to ceremonies and everywhere drums were playing, sat nearby the drums, afterwards trying to make his own instruments even using pots, metal-boxes covered with a plastic and coconut- bowls.
In 1976 Mzee Kheri moved from Pemba to Unguja, participated in different arts groups and got famous as a brilliant drummer. He knows the rhythms of around 25 tribes of Tanzania: the fantastic complex world of rhythms for weddings, agricultural work, for sadness and joy, and preparations for young men and women to become adults. And he created rhythms on his own.
So the founders of the DCMA got aware of Mzee Kheri and engaged him as teacher specially for traditional drumming. And today besides of he also offers drum-workshops for tourists, who want to catch a glimpse and a feeling for the complex and fascinating world of African and Zanzibarian rhythms. The most challenging for beginners, he explains, is how to touch the skin to get a proper tone and a better sound, and get the feeling for the tempo.