Music has the power to heal deep traumas, to connect us to ourselves and with our fellow humans of past, present and future.
I was reminded of this after a powerful experience in professor Jared Shapiro’s Global Music course. Guest speaker Gary Meitrott visited the class on Jan. 28 armed with a van full of djembe hand drums, a popular West African instrument. Meitrott is the founder of the Rutland-based group, Drum Journeys of Earth, and offers his 20 years of experience with ethnic drumming, having studied with masters from West Africa, Latin America and the Middle East.
Once a Broadway actor, his vibrant energy shook the early 9 a.m. class awake, and quickly. Prior to teaching the class various rhythms, Meitrott delivered a poignant message about the need to return to our primordial roots and to our bodies in the present moment (unplugged), as well as the importance of generational wisdom and individual autonomy.
Drumming is a primordial music. Drums were among the first instruments to be made by humankind, and were used for communicating over long distances and in ancient rituals and ceremonies.
The djembe drum was invented approximately 400 to 800 years ago by Mande people in West Africa. The creation of djembe drums was a spiritual process initially carried out only by blacksmiths.
Crafted specifically for each musician, djembe drums were carved from a solid tree trunk with an animal skin stretched over the top. The tradition of djembe playing in West Africa was reserved for those born into families of djembe musicians, who are entrusted with passing down the oral history of their people.
There is said to be three spirits within the djembe; the spirit of the tree from which it was carved, from the animal whose skin makes the membrane, and of the carver who cut the tree and who created the drum. It is straddled between the thighs and at an angle so that when hit, the sound may resonate through the instrument and into the air. The hand directly strikes the membrane in three basic ways; bass, with the palm striking the center of the drum; tone, which uses the upper palm and fingers at the edge of the drum; and a slap, which uses the figures at the edge of the drum to create the highest pitch, he said.
As we learned how to strike the drum and some basic traditional rhythms, Meitrott spoke of the importance of community. In today’s digital age, the definition of community has evolved to unite niches of people across the world who never meet or speak in person. While the transnationality of the modern world is essential, so too is to unplug, live in the present and connect with all generations in our local community, he said.
In western culture, older generations are often forgotten, shuffled into nursing homes once they are no longer able to contribute to the workforce. There is an obsession with youth that undermines the wisdom to be learned from elders who have lived rich lives filled with experience of a world quite different to ours. Consider that we now have access to an enormous variety of music to stream 24/7, when generations of the past experienced music only at sporadic events and with no choice as to the genre.
To drive his emphasis on the importance of inter-generational community, the rhythms he taught the class were separated into three groups: the grandparents, the parents and the youth.
The ‘grandparents’ began drumming first and laid down the fundamental structure of the song, as they provide the starting point for generations to come. The ‘parents,’ whose phrase grew out of the grandparents, provided harmony and increased the complexity. ‘The youth’ came in last with a more quickly paced beat dancing atop the other two rhythms, completing the song.
Urging the class to bring the sound up out of the ground, the communal sound we created truly resonated. There was a pure joy in the air as inhibitions melted away and we made this music together. Perhaps it is because of my own personal love of drumming, but I left that workshop with a buzzing energy that lasted the entire day.
I felt that this experience was worth sharing with the greater student body because our fast-paced modern world of constantly evolving technology means we forget to live in the present moment. In this supposed ‘land of the free,’ we are still neatly shuffled into pre-existing social roles that prohibit genuine freedom. Playing an ancient instrument and creating beautiful music with a room full of unknown others, I felt totally present and connected in a deeply human way that surpasses time and place.
A poignant comment Meitrott made regarding a college education was that its purpose is to teach abstract and critical thought, that we may somehow give back to our community. To go deeper beyond the first thought that occurs, to challenge preconceptions and develop a sense of autonomy. This is more important now than ever, to keep truth and integrity grounding our humanity.
Our duty as students in higher education and as world citizens is to find our rhythm and give back to the community what we’ve discovered so that present and future generations may flourish.
Actual Customer Reviews - 1990 to 2023
Average Rating: 5 Stars
I just bought my djembe from Alan yesterday so I'm really excited to play it again after the rain stops. (I like to play outside). I researched many places all across the US and tried Amazon and djembe makers in Pakistan. I found out that the sound of the djembe is 'boingy' if it wasn't carved in Africa. (My first 2 were from Pakistan though Amazon and another company didn't want to tell me that!) Anyway, huge difference to get a dry, solid African sounding djembe. Thank you!
I had my djembe re-headed with a goat skin by DrumConnection and it never sounded anything like this! I can't stop playing it. I didn't know so much of the value of a djembe was in how it was made with all the ropes and tensioning and a super high quality skin, tuned perfectly. I really can't stop playing my 'new' djembe :) Just to add that I wasn't a very good player before but now I play so much and so easily, I am so happy with this! Thanks Alan!
I was so impressed with the prompt delivery of a beautiful djembe to on of my teachers of spiritual mindfulness; he LOVED it! They selected the best djembe they had and shipped it to me in 2 days. It was a huge hit with my teacher. They also supplied us with all the care of the djembe tip sheet and how to tune the djembe video, which is very helpful. Good communication and perfect follow-thru.
I recently purchased a djembe drum from DrumConnection and am now taking lessons with him. He was so incredibly helpful and knowledgeable about the drums and taught me things I never knew I never knew about buying a drum. His classes are fun and engaging and he goes above and beyond the call of duty in helping us to learn and know about the history and origins of this sort of drumming, It has been in great addition to life particularly during Covid.
Excellent and knowledgeable instructors, classes that balance learning rhythms and technique accurately and having fun playing together, great people and community! Alan Tauber is an experienced teacher and drummer who has learned from the best players and djembe masters on the planet, and is happy to share his knowledge with students. I recommend Alan and DrumConnection highly!
Adam J. M.
When my son, who is now at Berklee, was in grammar school he studied djembe with Alan and I was so impressed with Alan’s kind and fun manner of presenting complex rhythms. I later studied conga with Alan and one of his top notch teachers. The material was challenging but so satisfying. We also own a beautiful djembe we got from Alan. I highly recommend him as a teacher.
Learning the Drum at The Drum Connection is the best and most genuine experience around. I highly recommend The Drum Connection to anyone who is interested in learning how to play the African drum and all it has to offer.
I bought an insanely beautiful, well-crafted, high quality djembe off Alan a couple months ago. It took me about two hours to finalize my decision but he never once rushed me. Felt like I was just chilling with an old pal. Made me laugh a lot! He’s got an off-beat but refreshing sense of humor. To top it off he also gave me a WONDERFUL deal on the drum! I also began taking classes with him, he’s fun, engaging, and so lighthearted! Throughout the class he makes sure everyone is on the same page.. And he KNOWS HIS STUFF. Thank you Alan for all you do and provide. Can’t recommend him highly enough.
I have taken lots of classes with Drum Connection teachers and Alan Tauber. His classes are always fun and I have learned a lot about playing Djembe and the traditions and melodies surrounding the instrument. In addition to his own classes, I have taken classes and workshops with other teachers he brings in occasionally - they are always great. And just as important, his students are always supportive of one another - the general feeling is that everyone was a beginner once and everyone helps each other if they can.
I was welcomed with open arms, and having only touched a drum once before, had no idea what to do. I walked in off the street and immediately John Tracy sat with me and taught me a simple rhythm. I ended up taking a series of lessons with Alan Tauber, and joining a number of drum circles. I loved being welcomed into the community .. to this day, I drum with people from the DrumConnection. The gentle and experienced people there are enthusiastically committed to teaching all levels of drumming.
Alan’s enthusiasm for drum playing is infectious! He shares his warm heart, patience, and talents with all students.
Coming in as a novice, it could have been intimidating. It was the opposite! Warm and welcoming! Alan has such patience and skill in helping me get to the next stage in drumming! Such a blast doing outdoor classes! And always enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow students.
I went for my first drumming class yesterday. Alan and Nancy met me with a big smile and created such a loving and caring atmosphere making me feel really comfortable and accepted. I have no musical experience and was really worried of how the class would flow. They were just amazing. I don't have enough words to express how magical the class was. I can't wait to go back and I have been telling all my friends about drumming. It's the best therapy for your mind and soul!!!
Sarah Tenney of Marimba Magic (R) at The Rivers School Conservatory recommends us! Thank you.
"The Drum Connection has brought the joy of drumming to many hundreds of people through excellent classes. Alan is very knowledgeable about African drumming and he has reached deeply into the whole Boston area spreading his passion through many communities. I recommend his classes and drum circles."
Nancy Browne recommends DrumConnection
January 28, 2018
This is a great class taught by remarkable drummer and gifted teacher, Alan Tauber! It’s something I just want to share with everyone, so much fun and such a wonderful way to connect with other people in a deep, uplifting musical way. You will feel supported and uplifted at the same time as you learn to play the hand drums with others who learn and play along with you! A very, very special experience awaits all who take this class. You will not be disappointed. If I could, I would give this class as a gift to everyone I know!
"Drum Connection has been an amazing source of drum culture as well as lessons and community for many years. From hand percussion to events and travel, Drum Connection has reached (thousands?) over the years."
Dr. Barry Taylor, N.D.
Weston MA • 10.8 mi away • Medical Center
"If you want to learn drumming, Alan is the man to call."
The Spiral Path
Topsfield MA • Alternative & Holistic Health Service
"Great teacher. Has depth of knowledge about drumming and is passionate about sharing it with others."
Dr Margaret Rogers Van Coops
Lake Havasu City AZ • Medical & Health
"The rhythm of music is key to cleansing the body of negativity. Everyone should attend this kind of class to dump negative history. I recommend contacting Alan who is caring and nurturing."
Wellesley MA • 11.5 mi away
"kind, patient and totally passionate about his work and his students growth"
Waste to Energy Machines
"Progressive Drum Shop"
Brighton MA • Fine Art
"Alan is a great teacher and Networker!"
Live Fully with ADHD
Jamaica Plain MA • Coach
"Alan is a great teacher and has trained a terrific staff. And he's a really nice guy. Sells some good drums, too."
EV Custom Massage
"I highly recommend DrumConnection. Alan is very knowledgeable in many areas of drumming, and can assist anyone from the first time novice to the skilled professional. DrumConnection has a wide array of drums that you can try for a perfect fit."
Kennard Music, LLC
Dayton OH • Entertainers, Actors, & Directors
"Drums and wisdom. 👍🏻😎"
Hub Health & Wellness Center
Jamaica Plain MA • 8.1 mi away • Alternative & Holistic Health Service
"The best djembe place in Boston"
Something Savory - Catering and Events
Arlington MA • 1.5 mi away • Caterer
"Great classes, wonderful people!"
Malibu CA • Meditation Center
"Drums have always been a path for me to express my soul and the beat of my life. DrumConnection has a fabulous variety of all kinds of drums that can add to your enjoyment or musical expertise. Just a wonderful place to purchase a drum from."
Royale Business Club International Inc
"They are in the same business as we are but a long way away. Doing a great job at their craft."
Medford MA • Performance & Event Venue
Kneeland & Kydd
Arlington MA • 1.0 mi away
"It is a really cool store in a fun shopping area if you are looking for drums a great place to start"
Drum Teacher / Freelance Musician
Belmont MA • 3.2 mi away
"Alan & DrumConnection are a cornerstone to the hand-drumming and "world-beat rhythms" community. Alan has been sharing his authentic knowledge here for decades. I wholeheartedly recommend Alan & DrumConnection!"
Lifeworks Career & Life Design / Grafton Street Writing Center
Arlington MA • 1.2 mi away
"Knowledgeable devoted and fun"
Drumming Preparatory School
Arlington MA • 1.0 mi away • Performing Arts
"Alan is one fine human being! He already has most of the answers and knows where to find the rest."
Universal Drums: Music Therapy, Lessons & African Arts!
"DrumConnection in Arlington offers fabulous services in African Arts! :)"
5.0 star rating Yelp!
This place should be called, "percussion heaven". You can find every sort of percussion instrument and accessory here, all in one place. The staff is very friendly, knowledgable and helpful. They have professional djembes and dunun . They also sponsor local drum circles and have drum classes with the very talented owner as well as master drummers from around the globe. They also offer a wide variety of CD's. One of the best shops ever!
San Rafael, CA
5.0 star rating
5.0 star rating 2/9/2017
I was thrilled to find that this store doesn't just have hand drums, but is also well-stocked with hardware and parts for rock drum kits. And if they don't stock something you need, they'll order it for you or point you in the right direction.
Alan, the owner, is extremely knowledgeable and helpful if I have questions or need advice. When I came in last year wanting to restore my vintage kit, I had no idea where to start, and Alan helped me through the entire process, from cleaning, de-rusting, to finding missing parts. Whenever I have a problem with my kit or something breaks, I always go to Alan first (it's a good idea to call the store to see when he's working!) Often he'll find a way to fix it without having to purchase new parts.
Definitely recommend this gem over bigger places like Guitar Center.
5.0 star rating
Jan 22, 2017
"Hi Alan, Eddie & I LOVED Nancy's classes. We stopped going because it was dark & cold & late & it was the only time we could both make it ( I work nites ) but we plan to resume classes probably in the spring. I miss it. Rochelle"
5.0 star rating
Purchased beautiful instruments...
I recommend the workshops to all my college student studying world music in the classroom. We've also purchased beautiful instruments I use in my teaching. People marvel at their sound and touch.
5.0 star rating
So much fun...
Participating in a beginners drumming series was so much fun, and I was surprised at what they were able to teach us! We plan to go back as soon as our schedule allow a steady attendance.
5.0 star rating
Just bought my 3rd instrument from this store. Always a pleasure to do business with DrumConnection, and home to a great community of drummers.
5.0 star rating
Honest, original voice...
Way back in 2011, I wrote and published a feature story about Alan Tauber and DrumConnection. Read it at YourArlington
Nothing that has occurred since would cause me to change my mind about Alan and his business: He's an honest, original voice in a fast-changing town, offering a rhythm that is hard to beat.
5.0 star rating
Always a great experience...
Alan is always a pleasure to do business with. He is knowledgable and very kind. The classes they have are fun and very informative. Always a great experience.
Redington Beach, FL
Alan's knowledge is vast...
I needed to replace the head on a djembe. I live on the south shore of MA, and was having a hard time finding a place to do the job. I discovered the DrumConnection through a list serve and found the best resource I could hope for. Alan's knowledge is vast, and the service was done professionally, on time, and at a reasonable price. I do not need to look any further for my hand drumming needs.
It is a privilege to know you...
You play such an important part in drumming education in this country. It is a privilege to know you...
Name withheld upon request.
(but a famous dude in percussion).
Great Local Place, Great Stuff, Nice People
Bought a present for a friend and they had just what I wanted. They helped me pick the right one. Weren't pushy. Really nice vibe. Will definitely go back when I need a drum or a present for someone.
5/16/2016 5.0 stars! Yelp!
DrumConnection is great! Excellent teachers, extremely high quality guest drummers from Africa, and female teachers and leaders.
5/15/2016 5.0 stars!
Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa!
At DrumConnection, I began my beginners' class feeling lost and insecure. However, while the drum is quite challenging, I have felt more and more connected to the group thanks to the wonderful teachers, and the kindness and acceptance of other drummers.
In other words I am deeply indebted and grateful for the opportunity to expand my skills, horizons, and sense of belonging thanks to the drum. The ongoing learning experience is challenging, exhilarating and humbling. Thank you Alan, Thierno, Audrey, Issa and Moussa, and thank you to all my fellow students!
5/13/2016 5.0 stars!
Thanks so much. Tuned up my kids drum, very knowledgeable and friendly!
4/28/2016 5.0 stars!
Love DrumConnection in Arlington!
Great teachers including the Masters from West Africa; great drums (all kinds) and accessories. Director and owner, Alan, is an excellent drummer himself, friends to all and always willing to share his knowledge. Classes & Workshops at all levels challenging and tons of fun. Serious drumming going on here!
4/27/2016 5.0 stars!
Knowledgeable, and very helpful.
I watched Alan help a gentleman trying to rent an accordion. Yes, this sounds like a Seinfeld script, but it was touching seeing Alan help someone out. Additionally, the store is well supplied, and the prices are quote reasonable for being able to get your hands on what you need right now. Truly, an asset to the community!
Brian C. J.
April 9, 2016, 1:47 p.m.
Friends cannot believe how light it is and how good it sounds. Easy for me to carry. It is also very nice looking, not ornate, just beautiful wooden swirls. Thanks for all your help on this..... kdl
4/10/16 ; 5 Stars
I have spent several wonderful weekends at DrumConnection studying drumming rhythms with various master drummers (djembefolas) and I just want to thank Alan and the wonderful community of people I met at there for a wonderful, fun, inspiring and informative time. If I didn't live on Long Island, NY I would be there every week. 5 star rating from me!
Long Island, NY
2/24/2016 : 5 Stars!
DrumConnection is a wonderful place. Alan is so helpful, thoughtful and kind. The store has a great selection of drums that will help you connect to music from all over the world. Highly recommended!
Jan. 16, 2016 : 5 Stars!
Great experience, no pressure to buy or spend more than I wanted to, just the perfect assistance to help me find the right drum for me - a clear joy for drumming and very welcoming - made me feel right at home.
12/22/2015 : 5 Stars!
A great little store
I was looking for some nifty percussion accessories for my son-in-law and I really didn't want to go the the Guitar Center. What a great place! I got great advice & was able to find exactly the kind of stuff I was looking for! A perfect shopping trip & well worth the weekly trip down from Cape Ann!
Cape Ann, MA
5.0 star rating 12/6/2015 Yelp!
I took a beginner drum class here this fall. I was impressed by the business's connection to West African drumming. Thierno, a drummer from Guinea, was our teacher. If you want to learn drumming, have a weekly class with lots of laughing and meet people from around the world this place is for you.
5.0 Star Rating 12/4/15 Google+
Alan the owner is always friendly and helpful. When I was looking for a drum, he chose 4 drums he thought I might like, each unique. He helped me sort out the differences to find the combination of pluses that added up to the perfect drum for me.
Alan the teacher is a non-judgmental, supportive, and clear instructor whose decades of experience and amazing skill as a drummer combine to provide a safe and inspiring learning environment. I've studied with four other DrumConnection instructors and each is excellent in his or her own ways, and all certified by examination.
A great store and a wonderful school. I recommend it without reservations.
11/15/2015 5.0 Yelp!
The beginner drum class was extra special. Taught by Thierno Keita-what a wonderful escape each week from the work-a-day world into a world of rhythm and movement. Great for the brain and the soul. Alan Tauber, who runs the Drum Connection could not be kinder or more devoted to his art. This has been a postive turn for me and I will continue on this road with pleasure.
5.0 star rating 11/11/2015
DrumConnection is an nook of musical magic on Mass Ave in Arlington. The drumming teachers are from Africa, they sponsor workshops and trips to Africa to learn drumming. Alan the owner is very flexible and understanding with scheduling lessons. The drum selection is fantastic!! I recommend it to everyone I know. What a gem!
5.0 star rating 11/9/2015 Yelp!
Broad selection of percussion instruments from all over the world. Alan, the owner, really knows a lot about the instruments and the music they make.
5.0 star rating 11/7/2015 Yelp!
We have purchased many instruments from Alan. He knows so much about percussion instruments that we trust him with ordering sight unseen and have been pleased with our purchases. Prices are very reasonable. We drive 2 hours each way to shop at the Drum Connection and it is worth it.
5.0 star rating 11/6/2015 Yelp!
You will not find a more beautiful person than Alan to assit you with your journey of learning the drums. I have traveled with Alan to Guinea, purchased various drums, and attended numerous classes. Have not been able to find the joy I felt when I was involved with the Drum Connection. Please open a southern location!
5.0 star rating 10/5/2015 Yelp!
The drum I purchased from Alan several years ago is both beautiful and is a joy to use. The classes are fantastic -- designed for all skills levels and taught by master teachers that are knowledgeable and exciting.
They are patient and know how to break rhythms down to bite size. I have enrolled my 4 year old in the children's drum class and it is dynamic -- teaching movement and African songs. She loves it and loves her teachers."
5.0 star rating 10/19/2015 Yelp!
The Best! Thanks!
Purchased my djembe here a few years ago, just bought new skin, Alan and staff always knowledgeable and helpful.
5.0 star rating 8/29/2015 Yelp!
I am new to drumming and am having a ball. I went to a Sunday night lecture and lesson on one type of drums and followed that with 2 Sunday night drumming circles with an excellent teacher-but not at the rank beginner level. Still, I loved it and just tried to follow and keep up.
Now I am in a beginner class and I am still enjoying every minute. Alan is a kind and welcoming person. He coordinates to bring in a variety of excellent teachers and classes take place most every day of the week. He gives great advice about what to purchase and has rentals available. Come join the fun!
5.0 star rating 8/24/2015 Yelp!
This is a great little shop. Alan was able to rent me some drums for my autism caregivers retreat and was very accommodating. The drums were gorgeous, beautiful sound. Our group had a great time thanks to Drum Connection coming through at the last minute for me. Thank you!
June 25, 2015
5.0 star rating Excellent Teaching!
This is the first time I took drum lessons. I have taken piano lessons off and on for years. I really enjoy playing the drums. I had two teachers. They both had their individual style of teaching. I found that Alan is an excellent teacher. I would recommend anyone with a desire to learn drumming to check out DrumConnection. I haven't gone to their drum circle yet, but that's the next step for me. I am finishing up my first six weeks of classes, two more classes to go.
August 4, 2015
5.0 star rating 8/4/2015 Yelp!
I'm new to the djembe and drum circles in general. The drum circle I attended last week was a blast. Very relaxed and friendly, the drumming was amazing. Alan and Fanta were both very warm and welcoming. As others have noted, great energy. I'm definitely going back.
July 6, 2015
5.0 star rating Incredible Drums!
I returned to the store today to purchase my first djembe. Alan was more than helpful. He gave a mini-lesson on the spot so I would know how to evaluate the variety of drums, their tonal differences, etc. He also played several of them for me to have a better impression of what it sounds like once technique is mastered. The drum I finally settled on is incredible, love it. My wife was looking for a bodhran, and he gave demonstrations of those as well!
July 8, 2015
Way better than 5 stars!
Alan clearly loves what he is doing and it shows in the friendly, professional and deeply knowledgeable service. Way better than 5 stars.
June 10, 2015
Alan was so helpful. He came highly recommended, and lived up to it. I got a wonderful drum for my nephew - have not yet given it to him, but he is going to love it.
April 8, 2015
Five stars all the way!
Honestly, I can't say enough good things about DrumConnection. Alan and John helped me pick out the perfect drum, and when I came in tonight, Alan talked with me for at least an hour about technique, the history of the djembe coming to America, and more. The place is warm and inviting, and the people who work there are the same. I am confident I chose the best place to start my drumming journey, and I will be back for their classes! Five stars all the way!
March 7, 2015
My son is now starting drum lessons. We stopped in to purchase a drum pad and drum sticks. This is an amazing store. There is much to learn about choosing an instrument that suits you...and we were encouraged not to rush in and spend a lot of money at this stage. The store is packed with drums (mostly hand drums) and each visitor is encouraged to try out items that spark their interest. While visiting, my son tried several thumb pianos as well.
March 6, 2015
Fanta lead our group of 21 drummers thru two hours of song, dance, and drumming. Everybody was smiling at the end of the evening. What a deal for 10 bucks!
February 24, 2015
Drum Connection is a fantastic place to take African drumming lessons, meet some wonderful people and really expand your horizons by attending workshops with master drummers from West Africa. It's been a life changing experience for me. I am so blessed to part of Alan and Fanta's community.
February 13, 2015
As always Alan was right there to make sure I got exactly what I was looking for. He even sent me a photo/text to confirm that he had the correct size, shape and sound of rattle I needed. This was that perfect combination of personal service and immediate results.
February 5, 2015
Hey just wanted to write you a note to tell you how much I absolutely love the drum! It was the perfect choice for me. The slaps are just incredible and yet it gives good bass response. I brought it to work to play with the children and it was just such the perfect instrument. It’s just the right one for me and I'm really thrilled with it. Thanks so much.
January 24, 2015
Thanks Alan for your undivided attention today as I purchased the replacement head for the djembe I had previously bought at DrumConnection. Could not be more satisfied!