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Rejoicing to the Beat of the Drum

David Kaipu, a BU mechanic from Liberia, played the Liberian drum during this year’s MLK Day ceremony. 

David Kaipu, a BU mechanic from Liberia, says in Africa, the drum is a call to attention. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

On Monday, January 15, the beating of drums will resound through the GSU’s Metcalf Hall, convening attendees at BU’s ceremony honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59). “In the African village the drum rhythm is a call to attention,” says David Kaipu, a University maintenance mechanic. The native of Liberia will play his Liberian drum during the 2 p.m. opening ceremony.

“The drums will call the people to attention for the program that will follow,” says Kaipu, who has played the instrument for almost 30 years. “Africa is a very big continent, and there are different drum rolls from all over Africa. Every country has a different rhythm, but no matter the rhythm, the drums bring everyone together.”

Kaipu, who does heating and ventilation work at BU, is a member of the Village Drum and Masquerade, a professional group that performs traditional Liberian music, dance, and storytelling. He wanted  to promote African dance and performance on campus, so he sent Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore a DVD of his performances up and down the East Coast. Elmore was impressed and asked him to play during the University’s MLK Day ceremony on January 15. A cultural troupe, including Kaipu and a half-dozen drummers, will perform alongside masked African dancers. “We will be playing a simple rhythm that will incorporate everyone, because we want everyone to rejoice,” he says.

Taking part in the ceremony is important to him, Kaipu says, because King stood for peace and unity during a very difficult time. “Martin Luther King, Jr., means a whole lot to me,” he says. “One of the most important things about him was that he was there for everyone; he supported everyone, not just one race. He talked about how everyone should unite and how there should be no divisions. We all should be as one people.”

Meghan Noé can be reached at mdorney@bu.edu.