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
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
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
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
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.
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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.
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.
Those are such drums of which I have heard but never knew. There is no war drum. . .but there is enough… too much. Thank you Andrew. I’ll play both my drums for you.