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Larchmont Kids Learn About African Names, Drums

LARCHMONT, N.Y. – If Jarvis Savage, a second-grader at Central School, was born in Ghana, West Africa, he could have been named after the day he was born, said Kobla Mensa Dente.

Mr. Kobla, as he likes to be called, told children attending his program "Talking Drums with Kobla Dente" at the Larchmont Library Wednesday that his name means Tuesday.

"'Kobla' is an African name," said the world-class drummer and percussionist, all-the-while playing one of his traditional African drums. "It comes from the Akan people of Ghana, West Africa, and they have a custom – that's a way of doing things. They name their children after the days of the week. Now, Kobla means I'm born on a Tuesday. I'm a Tuesday child."

Savage, a Mamaroneck resident, would be named Kwame because he was born on a Saturday, Dente said.

The hour-long program, celebrating Black History Month, featured several traditional African instruments, which Dente taught the kids how to play. They included the mbira (or thumb piano), djimbe, kunga, rain stick, akasa, shekere gourd and even a hand-carved drum he made. At the conclusion of the program, he invited several kids up to perform with him, including Savage, who played the akasa.

"I think it's important to share with audiences of different cultures and backgrounds through music," Dente said. "Music has a way of gathering people together in a creative and nurturing way."

As much fun as many kids said they had playing the various instruments, others enjoyed the video clip of the old PBS series Reading Rainbow featuring Dente demonstrating how to make an African drum.

Dente said he began making drums while he was in college during the late 1970s. In 1978, he made a pilgrimage to Africa to learn how. In the segment, which aired in 1988 as part of the episode titled "Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters," he said making these drums connects him to an ancient tradition.

"I liked watching how he made the drums," said Henry Beyrich, 8, who attended with his two siblings Abigail, 4, and Caroline, 1, and mother Sarah.

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