This is the Drum

This is the drum that talks to its own beat

               that started in a royal compound,

               then moved underneath to the hold

               of a ship used to exercise captives

               as if they were horses and cars.


This is the drum that belonged to the son

             of an African trader who travelled

             with slaves to get an education on

             the backs of his brothers and sisters,

             sold out at all costs.


This is the drum, hear the fontomfrom

             at the palm wine chop bar accompany-

             ing gossip and stories, holding them

             together in a social glue as thick and

             consistent as kenkey and stew.


This is the drum that was overcome by grief,

                     whose leaders colluded and left

                     our interior intruded.


This is the drum that tells its own story in bi-

                    tonal, tri-tonal scales and beats

                    that will reincarnate and never

                    surrender, never defeated.


This is the drum on the plantation that spoke

                   to Old Country and united the hands

                   from many tribally scarred lands.


This is the drum that recovered myriad times,

                made of Cordia africana, stretched

                over space, time and land, repaired

                in Amerindian antelope and

                deer skin, to begin again, uniting

                the Akan, Virginian, Taino and Carib.


This is the drum of three orchestral movements,

                    three continents shifting, telling

                    its story, all chained, enslaved in

                    different ways.


This is the drum made of wood, skin and fibre

                    that survived inhuman disaster.


This is the drum housed in Room 26, between

                    and betwixt a triangle of transatlantic

                    slavery, its watery graves and no gates

                    of return, blood trickled lands, snapping

                    fingers, picking cotton, sugar and tobacco

                    adjusting New World rhythms.


This is the drum, in glass coffin in exhibition that

                    started the very first British Museum

                    collection.


This is the drum Reverend Clarke passed on to Hans

                    Sloane with his penchant for manacles

                    and shackles, grim black iron artifacts

                    forming the chains of human enslavement.


This is the drum, part of a royal fontomfrom full

                   ensemble, where every kyɛne has a name,

                   role to speak and play in its own tempo

                   mood, rhythm and signature of space and

                   time: atumpan, odondo, kwadum, adowa,

                   abofoe, kpanlogo, djembe, gomo; ntorwa,

                   apentemma and pɛtia part of the kete.


This is the drum, housed in the royal palace,

                           where the okyerema tongue talks

                           directly to the chief of every village,

                           played with open palms or sticks.


This is the drum they thought was Native

                                American Indian until Sloane

                                travelled to Jamaica in search

                                of more bounty, then he saw

                                it played by African slaves.


This is the drum, its true identity submerged

                   under transatlantic seaboard

                   floors like Atlantis, an amphibian

                   landing, surviving and circulating,

                   even as traders sought to reduce

                  their makers and users to chattel.


This is the drum that Kew Garden experts

                    sampled and found its wood

                    was grown in Africa, originally

                    made for a musician in the Chief

                     orchestrating, dances of slaves


This is the drum of middle passages, locked in

                    the holds and grasps of the sarcophagi

                    of slave ships, greased and palmed off

                    in embalmer’s oil and put on the plinths of

                    Machiavellian Merchants of Venice.


This is the drum regarded as dangerous, inspiring

                   identity; genetic memory connected

                   by the umbilical chords of fibre attached

                   to its stretched skin across continents;

                   a communal rebellion among New World


This is the drum of hybrid tribal nations, healing

                   their scars, strumming guitars with fife,

                   drum and banjo, allowed to make work

                   music, later confiscated for fear of

                   incitement to revolt.

.

This is the drum of pre-colonial history of the Akan

                    nation, butchered, scrambled and carved

                    down, across and up by Europeans: Dutch,

                    Portuguese, Dane and British, establishing

                    their profitable trade of grain, gold and slaves,

                    traded between Ewe, Ashanti and Fanti

                    for guns under the golden coast sun and

                    salty Atlantic Ocean tears.


This is the drum that sailed on a ship that was a gift

                   from a nautical captain or crew with a cipher

                   of scruples, accompanied by sons of Asante

                   chiefs, part of their education of exploration.


This is the drum, indigenous ingenious heir to the throne,

                    home of the Golden Stool of Ghanaian music

                    our ancestors played and made at the palm

                    wine joint, drumming ɛnsaagyaesenwom,

                    palm wine music, where we reflect and pause

                    for thought on work life balancing acts.


This is the drum, we put our palms on to drum ancient

                    beats of fontomfrom comfort, singing and

                    lamenting, a tradition expanding then on to

                    the Chief’s palace to entertain royals, also

                    in sadness, announcing in funeral procession.


This is the drum that travelled the Middle Passage in six

                   months, in horrendous conditioning, next to

                   men below deck, chained in pairs, occasionally

                   let up to breathe, exercised, danced as captives,


This is the drum used to keep fit their investment from

                   sickness and suicide, as our brothers and sisters

                   tried to jump ships, kept running like horses

                   and cars, erased of identity, shackled together,

                   densely packed sardines in a black lacquered can.


This is the drum, the oldest surviving African object status

                    made by the Akan, played in religious ceremonies

                    and social occasions, travelling on a ship with call

                    and response musical legacy.


This is the drum that witnessed a twelve million Maangamizi,

                   labour for mines and plantations of sugar, tobacco,

                   and cotton among others, resisted in the chorus of

                   shouts, hollars and work songs, fife, drum and spirituals

                   evolved into jazz, rock and roll, hip hop and soul.


This is the drum that witnessed European first arrival, internal

                   warfare and displacement, settled empires of enormity

                   that had broken down, viewing war captives, internal

                   systems of slavery, the hands of domestic slaves toiling

                   on farmland.


This is the drum stolen for the massa’s entertainment, cruelly

                   twisting the legacy of African dance drum culture.


This is the drum that watched female slaves vulnerable, kept

                   on the main deck of the ship, raped and whipped,

                    preyed on by parasites of sexual predation, forced

                    to dance in twisted foreplay.


This is the drum that can’t sleep at night with the memory

                   of those that refused to participate punished

                   severely, tortured and killed, for refusing to

                   dance.


This is the drum that saw brave refusals to dance, girls

             declining slavers power and pleasure by rebelling,

             tearing up a racial script of subordination that the

             ‘bosses’ could never destroy or control.


This is the drum, the hollow goblet, full of life and stories,

             a wooden barrelled body, pegs attached, skinhead

             stretched by cord made of two vegetable fibres,

             coated by glue and ochre, decorated in vertical

             lines below its circumference equator.


             Hear the many beats of survival

             This is the drum of rebellion

             This is the drum of fontomfrom

             This is the drum of tradition

             This is the drum of lineage

             This is the drum of genetic memory

             This is the drum of endless reinvention

             This is the drum of Diaspora in chorus

             This is the drum of the palm joint and royal palace

             This is the drum of a triangular hybrid nation

             This is the drum of varied tempo and time signatures

             This is the drum of history, mine and yours

             This is the drum of the Maroons and Nyabinghi possession

             This is the drum of past, present and future

             This is the drum that caused trouble and confusion

             This is the drum of Old and New Worlds

             This is the drum that weaves like Anansi

             across the Atlantic in its tensile strength

             This is the drum of survival

             This is the Akan Drum.


Andrew Geoffrey Kwabena Moss is a writer and teacher who has lived in the UK, Japan, and currently, Australia. Of Anglo-Ghanaian heritage, his work seeks to explore liminal landscapes, complex identities, and social constructs of race. Andrew has previously been published by Afropean, People in Harmony, Fly on the Wall Press, Fair Acre Press, Poor Yorick Literary Journal, The Good Life Review, Scissortail Press, dyst Literary Journal, Sound the Abeng, and Rigorous amongst others. His work will appear in ­The Best New British and Irish Poets Anthology 2019-2021 and his debut collection Childish Recollections with The Black Spring Press Group. He can be found at https://www.agkmoss.com/ and https://twitter.com/agkmoss.

2 Comments

Leave a Comment

  1. This is one of the most transmissive pieces of poetry I have ever read. The story, the imagery, the passion, the pain, the hope… all there. It was as if you were able to transcend time and history and weave in and out of narrative and experience with a sometime subtle grace and other times a visceral and graphic honesty. Thank you so much for this. If I may suggest, a spoken word YouTube video would get this out to a much wider audience. I will share this on my social media as well. Take Care.

    Like

  2. Amazing sweep of history in this poem. The essential message of perseverance, hope & survival carried on a stream of poetic devices-rhythm, graphic imagery, repetition- that simply pulls the reader in.

    Like

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