Therapeutic effects of African drumming steer youths away from crime

30 September 2002
A UNIQUE youth rehabilitation and development programme uses the therapeutic and stimulating effect of African drumming to help those in conflict with the law and ultimately out of a life of crime.

African Djembe Entertainments, popular for its unique contribution to teambuilding sessions, has extended its social involvement through the Youth Rehabilitation, Development and Outreach Programme (YRDOP).

Danny Petersen, Managing Director of African Djembe Entertainments, says that through drumming they want to provide troubled youths with a positive experience amid the violence and fear of township life and show them that “crime is not the avenue through which to achieve status and money”. The programme aims to target troubled youths held in detention or temporary houses of safety, as well as those currently serving time. The initial rollout will be in Cape Town, and will later be extended throughout the Western Cape and ultimately to other provinces.

The pilot session of the programme was launched on September 17 at Bosasa Youth Centre, a well-known house of safety for troubled youths in Eersterivier. Western Cape Minister of Social Services and Poverty Alleviation, Marius Fransman, officiated at the launch.

UCT's Law, Race and Gender Research Unit (LRG) is among the supporters of the programme. It is envisaged that final-year occupational therapy students from UCT will through their research projects be involved in the programme.

Tony Sardien, senior researcher at the LRG, says in a letter of support he has “no doubt that drumming can play a critical part in the rehabilitation of children in conflict with the law”.

Numerous prominent businessmen, as well as various magistrates from Cape Town and Gauteng also support the programme.

Colin Hall, the director of Leadership a Simpler Way, says he knows that this drumming will have a positive impact on troubled youths' lives. “Something happens to people when, under Danny's extraordinary energy, they beat a rhythm out of a drum. It seems to take them on a journey backwards in time; inwards deep into their bodies and souls; and outwards to one another in away that bonds them tightly.”

Cape Town Magistrate C. Lehman says she “remains convinced that this would have profoundly effective application in communication with juveniles, and assistance particularly to those who are incarcerated”.

Petersen grew up in a township and says that he has a deep understanding of the reasons that drive the youth to adopt unsatisfactory behaviour and eventually resort to crime. “Poor socio-economic living conditions, lack of positive role models, poverty and direct exposure to drug trafficking and gangsterism from a very early age, all contribute to a lack of motivation and the disbelief of a better world, among the youth.

“I believe that one single session will have an immense therapeutic effect and will be invaluable to someone lacking stimulation in the social, developmental and creative spheres of their lives.

“Through a well structured drumming session, where expressions of emotions and imagination are stimulated, the youths will be provided with an appropriate channel to release energy and frustration, to learn to play an instrument and to correct a poor self-esteem,” he continues.

The facilitators onboard already all have a musical background and the ability to interact with troubled youths. Most of them are rehabilitated youths who have had a brush with the law, says Petersen.

“They will all undergo additional training in drumming, and I have also secured the services of a psychologist to assist and prepare them for the workshops,” he says.

A key objective of the programme is to identify talent among troubled youths and to eventually train them to become facilitators. Hereby employment and positive role models are created.

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