The rhythm is gonna get ya . . . healthy

João Pedro Henriques Rodrigues Soares is running drumming workshops.
João Pedro Henriques Rodrigues Soares is running drumming workshops. Athena Zelandonii

The rhythm is gonna get ya . . . healthy

A paint bucket and a metal tube strung together by twine and slung across his chest, and wooden and metal drumsticks in hand, João Pedro Henriques Rodrigues Soares sings a simple Kassa rhythm.

“Pang, pang, pang, pang, ting, ting, pang pang,” he calls, with a wide toothy grin, before hitting the beats.

“It is a rhythm from the west coast of Africa . . . when the people were digging the plantations, the people were playing the drums at the same time,” he said.

The 34-year-old Portuguese national has lived in Phnom Penh for just over two years, but he picked up Kassa over a decade ago from his brother.

“We had a group together – Bangbalan – he’s a really good drummer; he’s my master,” he said.

Teaching music at an international school is Henrique’s day job, but his passion for Kassa has led him to run a workshop in partnership with the Indochina Starfish Foundation for disadvantaged youths each Sunday morning, and starting next week, he will launch a course open to the public (for a modest price) at Showbox – the Cambodian Heart Beater’s African Drums Workshop.

Playing percussion gives a “boost” to the kids, he says, a feeling he says people of all ages can enjoy with such an easily accessible kit, even if they have no musical background.

“Some schools they want to follow the theory, theory, theory . . . I think if kids are following only the theory they lose interest. First, they need to have the contact with the instruments,” he says, adding, “It happened like this for me, too.”

For his course, which will see part of the fees support his work with the children, participants will also be invited to build a drum from re-purposed parts.

For Henrique, banging the drum also has a therapeutic element. “It helps with motor coordination, auditory memory,” he said. Besides, “It just makes you feel good!”

“If kids are following music, then maybe they’re avoiding drugs and other things, [like] going into the street and begging for money; maybe they can follow it as a dream and build their future,” he continued.

For one student, Henrique says, the rhythms of Kassa have worked wonders.

“I had a student, he had a mental disability . . . I saw the difference, I went to visit him the other day and now he’s playing piano, learning, but he said that he missed the drums.”

Cambodian Heart-Beater’s African Drums Workshop Launch Party takes place at Showbox, #11 Street 330 on August 2 from 7:30pm to 9pm. Course is open to all levels, and will run for eight sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays and costs $20. Reservations required at [email protected] or [email protected].

MOST VIEWED

  • Stock photo agencies cash in on Khmer Rouge tragedy
    Stock-photo companies selling images from S-21 raises ethics concerns

    A woman with short-cropped hair stares directly into the camera, her head cocked slightly to the side. On her lap is a sleeping infant just barely in the frame. The woman was the wife of a Khmer Rouge officer who fell out of favour, and

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the