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They've got the beat

Francis Kofi has been teaching Farmington elementary students African drumming skills and traditions for a few years now.

But last week, he did something even better. He brought them 12 new, authentic drums from Ghana.

Here's how it works. Kofi has a dance company called Hayor Bibimma Dance Co. The group's purpose is to share and teach African culture, all the while keeping the heritage alive among the members.

Well, after spending a few years teaching African drumming basics as part of an Artist in Residency program, Kofi started to notice that many schools simply didn't have the resources -- the drums -- for students to practice what they had learned after he left.

Kofi set out to change that. He decided he wanted to be able to give back to the community. It was his way, he said, of helping.

"I wanted to help the students learn more about the riches of the African culture," Kofi said.

So, this fall, Kofi came to Farmington as part of his Artist in Residency program. He worked with students in each of the five elementary schools. And when it was all over, he brought his dance company to Farmington for a benefit concert.

The concert's purpose was simple. Promoted by the Parent-Teacher Partnerships in each of the schools, the concert was held as a fund raiser. Something that would help Farmington schools raise the extra money needed to buy a dozen authentic African drums, to be shared among the buildings, throughout the year.

The concert funds came up a little short, but Kofi thought the drums were important enough that he kicked in the remaining amount.

It's only the second time Kofi and his company have helped a school district purchase drums like this.

"I just follow my heart," he said, when asked how he chose Farmington. "They have so many students and only have so many drums, so I thought, why not do this for them?"

The drums are made of hard wood. There are two sets of six each -- one, called the Oplentin, the other called the Djembe. The Oplentin have symbols called "adinkra" painted on the sides that have specific meanings. Kofi told music teachers they'd have to do a little research to find out for themselves what those symbols mean, but they are part of the African culture, he said.

The drums arrived at Meadowview Elementary School, where they were given to the entire school district in a short presentation. Students who had attended the Hayor Bibimma Dance Co.'s performance were invited to attend. Those students were the first to get to play the new drums.

For now, the drums are being stored at the school. They'll have to be tuned before the students can use them for class, but Kofi will help with that project next time he comes to Farmington.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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