About the Artist
Abasi “Manblack” Hanif is a teaching artist, spoken word poet, West African drummer, event host and community organizer. He is the son of news writer, editor and teacher C. B. Hanif and fiber artist and teacher Kianga Jinaki. Mr. Hanif has owned and managed Livin The Rhythm for twelve years, hosting community drum circles throughout South Florida. He is a music accompanist for Palm Beach Atlantic University and the African Drum Director for Sounds of Success Community Band and Drums Over Guns Youth Program. He is one of the four founding members of Men of Blackness (Conscious HipHop) and a Black Cultural Event Planner with RBG of South Florida. The writer and actor has performed in Broadway Productions, including Sundiata, Pleasant City: Thee ChoreoPoem, Waking Kya and Chocolate Nutcracker, and has been nominated for numerous awards, including the 2014 Clyde Fyfe and the 2015 African American Achievers Award.
Abasi Hanif plays the djembe drum
About the Djembe Drum
The djembe drum is most likely about 400-800 years old, and was created during the Malian Empire by the Mandé people. It spanned the modern-day countries of Senegal, southern Mauritania, Mali, northern Burkina Faso, western Niger, the Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, the Ivory Coast and northern Ghana. The Mali Empire grew out of an area referred to by its contemporary inhabitants as Mande. Mande, named for its inhabitants the Mandinka (initially Manden’ka with “ka” meaning people of), comprised most of present-day northern Guinea and southern Mali. The empire was originally established as a federation of Mandinka tribes called the Manden Kurufa (literally Manden Federation), but it later became an empire ruling millions of people from nearly every ethnic group in West Africa.
It is taught that the Blacksmiths made the first djembes, making each drum custom-fitted to the drummer who would play it. This makes sense as they would be the people to cut the tree. The making of the drum was spiritual, and the blacksmith was obliged to make offerings to the spirits of the trees he cut down. With the lengue tree, a sacrifice would be made to ask for permission to cut the tree for a djembe. Once the blacksmith finished the djembe, it was delivered to the drummer who commissioned it, a member of the jeli caste. The jeli are musicians, who are responsible for the oral history of their people. This remains true to today.
Traditionally, the djembe is played only by men, as are the dunun that always accompany the djembe. Conversely, other percussion instruments that are commonly played as part of an ensemble, such as the shekere (a hollowed-out gourd covered with a net of beads), karignan (a tubular bell), and kese kese (a woven basket rattle), are usually played by women. Even today, it is rare to see women play djembe or dunun in West Africa, and African women express astonishment when they do see a female djembe player.
Summer at the Norton was made possible by the generosity of the Cornelia T. Bailey Foundation, with additional support provided by Irene and Jim Karp.