Most of the children who signed up for drumming lessons didn’t know what to expect from a musician who was born in a distant country. But when Ibrahima N’Gom (who asked the youngsters to call him Ibou) showed up in colorful clothing and with his djembe (drum), the youngsters were fascinated.

Ibou talked about his native Senegal, where he was born into a Griot family of traditional musicians. Without anyone saying it, it didn’t take the youngsters long to realize that there’s a connection between their culture and African culture, as personified by Ibou and the music he played.

The music had a hypnotic effect on those who heard it. Often, people in the building who had no connection to the lessons would wander in, drawn by the energy and rhythm. They would stand quietly along the back wall, and before long, they found themselves moving to the music.

Most of the youngsters had no experience with music but quickly responded to the energy of the hand-slapped drumming. Most couldn’t stop bobbing their heads to the beat, just like the adults who wandered in.

Music speaks to the heart, and hearts are the same all over the world. Inside different skins and clothed in different apparel, hearts beat to a similar rhythm – and the music of one culture can speak to all. This was apparent as the drumming lessons progressed.

One of the goals of the project was to integrate a lasting cultural musical tradition into each community and to reclaim a community cultural heritage in music so that young people can achieve a sense of pride, knowledge and connection to the global community of which they are a part. Judging by the response from both sets of students, the project did just that.