HUMANS OF DJEMBE – Part 37 – LAURA KIRKWOOD (Brisbane Qld)

By November 10, 2016Blog

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““Music can transcend language barriers and it is in itself a language of its own.”- A life quote I have formed through my African adventures. I have been playing and studying music and percussion since I was 10 years old with my main instrument being drumkit.

2013 was the year I discovered my passion for African music. When I was 19 years old, on what was a spur of the moment decision I booked a spot on African Drumming’s 10th Anniversary Drum and Dance Tour to West Africa, run by Simon Fraser and Tuza Afutu. I remember the first night in Accra, Salaka gave us a wild welcoming performance. I initially thought “what have I gotten myself into?”

I found it hard to let go of my Western learning style and interpretation of music. I was trying to count and analyse every beat, seeking to understand at what point it lands. I realised that I just needed to feel the beat and everything else would follow. 

I was fascinated with the stories, rhythm and the culture of West Africa and the way music is central to the flow of life. Whilst on the tour, we studied in Ghana and Burkina Faso with various musicians and Master drummers. This experience was eye-opening, and I made great friendships and lasting memories on the tour. I continued my travels into Kenya and Tanzania, living with Maasai warriors and training with various musicians. This trip to Africa sparked my interest in ethnomusicology and the study of different cultures music.


I completed African Drumming’s Teacher Training Course, and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to become a part of the African Drumming team. I taught various classes and workshops across Queensland and Australia. A highlight was teaching at Ramingining State School in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, where I played music with local indigenous students and teachers. I studied Brazilian music at the University of Florida whilst on an exchange program, which truly exposed the extent of the African musical diaspora.

I have now been accepted into postgraduate studies in ethnomusicology at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and will be moving down to Melbourne in 2017. I look forward to becoming a part of the amazing African drumming culture in Melbourne. See you all soon!”