Step Afrika! returns to Boston with ‘Drumfolk’ show inspired by the Stono Rebellion

By Crystal Haynes, Boston 25 News
October 09, 2022 at 12:57 pm EDT

BOSTON — Combining the past, with slaves using their feet and floors as drums, with the present, and step lines created on college campuses; Step Afrika! returns to Boston with “Drumfolk” at the Emerson College Cutler Majestic Theater.

“The body becomes an instrument. This show. This show became and answer to us, or rather an answer as to why we stepped in the first place,” says show director, C. Brian Williams.

Drumfolk is inspired by The Stono Rebellion of 1739. It was an uprising initiated by 20 enslaved Africans who used their drums to start a revolt in South Carolina. The rebellion was suppressed, and the Negro Act of 1740 took away the right to assemble, read and use drums from the African people.

“The Stono Rebellion of 1739 that pre-dates the famed Boston Tea Party. Another very important rebellion in American history. And that fact that we’re bringing this story to life is really important to me because I know it’s a history that hasn’t been shared,” says Williams.

Boston 25′s Crystal Haynes sat down with Williams in the Museum of African American history in Boston. The floors under are original in the African Meeting House where greats like Frederick Douglass stood.

Williams explained, floors like that were used as drums when the instrument was outlawed.

“In the South they’d call them praise houses and they were very simple, wooden structures. By the pounding of their feet, or the pounding of a stick called a stamping stick on the floor. If you think about tap, turning the floor into a drum; you think about hambone. Turning the body into a drum. Of course stepping. And there’s another dance form that we do in this show called the ring shout. ”

Williams says the show is for anyone.

“Anyone who loves history should see this show. Anyone who loves dance. Anyone who loves music. Anyone who loves theater that doesn’t require you to be quiet. This is definitely celebratory theater.”

You can catch Step Afrika at Emerson’s Cutler Majestic Theater through October 16th.

View the whole interview on Boston 25 News.
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