Dolly Parton and Patrick Pobee in Drumstruck at Dollywood. Picture: Curtis Bilbun
Dolly Parton and Patrick Pobee in Drumstruck at Dollywood. Picture: Curtis Bilbun

Drumstruck is a spinoff from the Drum Cafe concept started in Johannesburg in 1996 by Warren Lieberman. Now seven South African drummers are making their way home after sharing a stage with country music legend Dolly Parton at one of the largest theme parks in the USA.

Drumstruck South Africa

Drum Café’s Drumstruck team, consisting of Mpho Rasenyalo, Patrick Pobee, Richard Carter, Sabelo Mgaga, Bafana Mahlangu, Emmanuel Quaye and Joshua Zacheus, entertained  audiences with their interactive drumming theatre experience at Dollywood, in Tennessee, US. They performed in the popular Festival of Nations at the Dollywood theme park, which attracts close to three million visitors a year.

The local performers participated in the 2019 opening ceremony of Dollywood, with Parton exclaiming that she had been left “dumbstruck by Drumstruck”. Parton joined the South African cast at their opening show, wearing a drum and playing it on stage with Drumstruck.

In her opening talk, Parton emphasised the importance of connecting through the international language of music. She introduced the ensemble, describing them as group that “will get your heart pumping”.

“Meeting Dolly Parton and performing with her was one of many highlights for the performers. She joined the performers backstage and spent time getting to know them – it’s a memory that the entire cast will treasure,” says Drum Café founder Warren Lieberman.

“Dolly Parton is an icon whose popularity is at an all-time high, so being affiliated with her is a defining moment for the Drumstruck crew.”

Mpho Rasenyalo and Sabelo Mgaga in Drumstruck. Picture: Curtis Bilbun
Mpho Rasenyalo and Sabelo Mgaga. Picture: Curtis Bilbun

South African music and culture

Drumstruck showcases South African music and culture, drawing on gumboot rhythms and Zulu dancing, while weaving in West African influences. Over 80 000 people attended Drumstruck in the beautiful Palace Theatre, where they performed for 900 people playing 900 drums, three times a day for 5 weeks – and closed to standing ovations.

The team took 1000 drums on the trip, to allow them to share traditional African drumming techniques with the international audiences. The performers will be making their way home to South Africa on Tuesday 16 April.

Drumstruck was developed due to the popularity of Drum Café’s corporate entertainment events, as a way for the public to participate in the interactive drumming experience. The theatre show has proven to be so popular that audience members frequently return to see the show again, often as many as three or four times.

Dollywood has not been the only high-profile performance Drumstruck has given. The drummers have shared the stage with Shakira, Will.Iam, K’naan, 30 Seconds to Mars and performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

They have also toured Japan, Korea, Australia, and Scotland, amongst others and enjoyed an almost two year run off-Broadway in New York.

The show embodies the same principles taught by Drum Café, educating guests about African music and the heritage of drumming, while connecting people through the joy of playing a drum.

What: Drumstruck show Dollywood
Drumstruck South Africa: Drum Café Joburg 011 493 0809, www.drumcafe.co.za
Drumstruck web: www.drumstruck.com, Facebook, Instagram
Cover pic: Emmanuel Quaye at Dollywood. Picture Shin Kurokawa
WS