Dolly Parton takes to the stage with drumming sensation, Drumstruck

Dolly Parton and Drumstruck at Festival of Nations

Dolly Parton and Dollywood celebrates the 34th Grand Opening Season with “Festival of Nations” at Dollywood on March 16, 2019. Picture: Supplied © Curtis Hilbun / Dollywood.

Article originally published on IOL, 15 April 2019.

Seven local drumming masters are making their way home after sharing a stage with award-winning country music legend Dolly Parton, at one of the largest theme parks in the USA.

Drum Café’s Drumstruck team – consisting of Mpho Rasenyalo, Patrick Pobee, Richard Carter, Sabelo Mgaga, Bafana Mahlangu, Emmanuel Quaye and Joshua Zacheus – entertained international audiences with their interactive drumming theatre experience at Dollywood, in Tennessee, USA. They performed in the popular Festival of Nations at the Dollywood theme park, which attracts close to three million visitors a year.

The local performers participated in the 2019 opening ceremony of Dollywood, with Parton exclaiming that she had been left “dumbstruck by Drumstruck”. Parton joined the South African cast at their opening show, wearing a drum and playing it on stage with Drumstruck.

In her opening talk, Parton emphasised the importance of connecting through the international language of music. She introduced Drumstruck, describing them as group that “will get your heart pumping”.

“Meeting Dolly Parton and performing with her was one of many highlights for the performers. She joined the performers backstage and spent time getting to know them – it’s a memory that the entire cast will treasure,” says Drum Café founder Warren Lieberman.

“Dolly Parton is an icon whose popularity is at an all-time high, so being affiliated with her is a defining moment for the Drumstruck crew.”

Drumstruck showcases South African music and culture, drawing on gumboot rhythms and Zulu dancing, while weaving in West African influences. Over 80 000 people attended Drumstruck in the beautiful Palace Theatre, where they performed for 900 people playing 900 drums, three times a day for 5 weeks – and closed to standing ovations.

The team took 1000 drums on the trip, to allow them to share traditional African drumming techniques with the international audiences. The performers will be making their way home to South Africa on Tuesday 16 April.

Drumstruck was developed due to the popularity of Drum Café’s corporate entertainment events, as a way for the public to participate in the interactive drumming experience. The theatre show has proven to be so popular that audience members frequently return to see the show again, often as many as three or four times.

Dollywood has not been the only high-profile performance Drumstruck has given. The master drummers have shared the stage with Shakira, Will.Iam, K’naan, 30 Seconds to Mars and performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, China.

They have also toured Japan, Korea, Australia, and Scotland, amongst others and enjoyed an almost two year run off-Broadway in New York. The show embodies the same principles taught by Drum Café, educating guests about African music and the heritage of drumming, while connecting people through the joy of playing a drum.


Group drumming: Get into a happier rhythm at work

Percussion is a great way to motivate staff and improve camaraderie and engagement

ice breakers for meetings and conferences

Article originally published in the Irish Times, 5 October 2018. Written by Olive Keogh

Drumming has been used for centuries to send messages, create bonds and promote unity within groups. It has also been found to reduce stress and to “tune” human biology in positive, life-affirming ways.

Now its therapeutic benefits are being channelled in a new direction – to improve motivation and communication in the workplace, to wow delegates at conferences and company gatherings and an unusual way of encouraging employees to let off steam after a gruelling meeting or an intensely busy period at work.

Drum Cafe is one of the oldest providers of corporate drumming workshops. It was formed in South Africa over 20 years ago by Warren Lieberman and Brett Schlesinger as part of an interactive experience at a music venue there. They were subsequently approached by a number of companies that wanted private sessions for their employees. That has since evolved into an international business that has run more than 50,000 events in 65 countries.

“We’ve worked with every kind of company and with numbers from 10 to 6,000,” Schlesinger says. “Drumming can be a terrific ice breaker, a great energiser and an easy way of connecting people. No skills are needed and I think what surprises people is just how quickly a group can get into a rhythm together and make a really big impact.”

Drum Cafe’s client list reads like a roll call of blue chips and includes Microsoft, Dell, BMW, Shell and Unilever. The company has been to Ireland more than 20 times.

Schlesinger says drumming creates a real buzz among jaded audiences that have heard one too many motivational speakers and eaten one too many canapés at big corporate events over the years.

“It’s really interesting to see people’s reactions when they come into the room and see the drums on their seats,” he says. “Yes, it takes them out of their comfort zone and they are a bit apprehensive at first. But they are also attracted by the novelty and the fun element. And when you get them going, the feeling in the room can be absolutely electric. I can tell you, when that happens, it’s an event or a conference they won’t forget in a hurry.”

Serious purpose

While the drumming is fun, Schlesinger says it can have a serious purpose allied to corporate objectives such as improving relationships within teams, closing the gap between management and employees, breaking down barriers and helping employees to embrace change or to understand how a new skill or process is learned.

He also says his company has seen a shift in mindset in the 10 years since the financial crash, with companies now really keen to engage their employees.

Drum Cafe is one of the oldest providers of corporate drumming workshops.

“Companies have become more concerned about making people feel part of the organisation and part of the team and making that meaningful. They want people to feel better about working there,” he says. “They use us to help get that message across, whether that’s in a quick session that lasts 20 minutes or one that goes on for a few hours. The energy levels it generates are high, very similar to something like paintball, in fact.”

Schlesinger points out that, when someone is drumming, they can’t be doing anything else – an unusual experience for many these days with always-on technology.

“The number one enemy of a conference or corporate event is the mobile phone,” he says. “People are constantly looking down, and getting their full attention is really difficult. But you need two hands for drumming so for that period they are in a technology-free zone, which is surprisingly positive.

“One of the comments we hear over and over is how alive and connected they felt [in a human as opposed to a technological way] to themselves and to other people after a drumming experience.”

Energising experience

Tania Lancaster, UKI strategy employee engagement lead at Accenture, says her organisation used drumming recently to mark the start of a new financial year and the launch of a new strategy.

“The room would have been made up of about 250 people, from analysts through to senior managing directors,” she says. “The day had been pretty full-on, and I was looking for something to finish it off on a high and get people feeling they were energised to deliver our new strategy and were part of a team/family.

“The three guys who came along [from Drum Cafe] were amazing. We only had a 25-minute slot but they still managed to work their magic. Everyone had a brilliant time and there was great camaraderie after it. People said they felt really energised to undertake the work ahead. It also humanised us, I think.”

Neil Dowling of Dublin-based Drum Nature (which teaches African drumming) runs corporate sessions mainly around team-building objectives. “I’ve led groups from five or six up to over 100 and companies have largely used us to reinforce training or messages they wanted to get across to help promote a collective vision,” Dowling says.

“Rhythm connects both sides of the brain and drumming is very participative and satisfying and people work together to create something that is much bigger than the sum of the parts.”

Drum sessions are typically priced according to group size, and all equipment is provided. Open-air drumming, which brings an added dimension, is possible but can be rather tricky in the Irish climate, as the drums don’t like to get wet.

The comfort Zone is the enemy for conferences.


Humans need synchronised group activities to be healthy, but they can also use them as a tool to be focussed and energised.

Humans , especially in the west are abandoning group synchronised activities in exchange for more virtual and solo activities.
WE only really “become present” at an event when we connect with others.

That magic happens OUTSIDE the comfort zone. When delegates sit and watch presentations for a certain amount of time , their ability to absorb information declines dramatically.
Mobile phones are a pure manifestation of comfort zone and the opposite of being present and focussed.

Over the last 16 years we have pinpointed this as being the biggest challenge to a successful event : How do you get your delegates to really hear the message of your meeting?
In meetings and events, sometimes we sacrifice the very reason for a meeting by allowing people to disconnect and isolate themselves.
The core idea of this presentation is about how the more connected people are during a conference, the more effective it will be.
The power of physical meetings as opposed to virtual meetings ( including webcam , telephone etc) is the ancient phenomenon of “group energy” which humans have harnessed for thousands of years to amplify inspiration.
On a macro level , interactive events give us a dose of this phenomenon.
It is group activities that energise people and magnify the energy of meetings and gatherings.
Getting delegates slightly out of their comfort zone is where the magic happens .
Creating connection between delegates seated next to each other magically makes people feel present.
Physical activities wake us up and relax us at the same time.

Drumming refreshes the parts other events can not reach.


Creating unity through collaboration







One of the biggest challenges we have been told about in 15 years of events is “HOW DO WE GET OUR DELEGATES TO REALLY HEAR US” .

It sounds like an obvious question but the problem is not such a simple one. As soon as delegates arrive at a conference, they slip into a certain “frame of mind” or consciousness.. and unfortunately, its not always one that is ideal for “RECEPTIVITY”.  The tiredness from travelling, over stimulation with so many things going on, too much information as well as the natural state of mind that can occur when watching multiple presentations can all combine together to form a delegate who has a very limited receptivity time.

We take people out of the receptive state, into the creative state…. out of the audience mode and into the performer mode, and slightly out of their comfort zone and into a dynamic and active role as a PARTICIPANT IN A DRUM CAFE INTERACTIVE EVENT.

By giving each audience member a drum and creating a piece of music together, we shift the energy and magnify the energy, and finally transform it to hand over to the following speaker, an audience that is focussed, energised AND relaxed.
This state of mind is pure gold for an event organiser or company leader. People are often receptive for the first time … feeling present , focussed, energised and “on a high” from this natural phenomenon of making music together .

We have 16 years of experience in getting any audience going from 10 to 10,000 people (yes we have that many drums) and the moment is not only energising and exciting but often a historic moment of unity for a company or team .


contact us to find out more how we can offer this event for your company meeting

click here to make an enquiry or get us to send you some more info about Drum Cafe UK



Drum Cafe With Al Gore at African Climate Change Programme Launch


Al Gore, former US Vice-President and climate change lobbyist, has launched the African branch of the Climate Reality Project, which aspires to assemble individuals and organisations to implement eco-friendly measures and “spread the truth” of climate change to communities on the continent.

Towards a 700 attendees audience at the Climate Reality Project workshop throughout three days, in Johannesburg, on Thursday, Gore said the African division of the organisation would look to collaborate with “climate leaders”, African governments, nongovernment organisations (NGOs) and scientists across the continent to recognize continent-specific solutions to global warming.

“This is a critical time for Africa. Although the continent produces a relatively small proportion of the carbon pollution driving global climate change, the continent bears a disproportionate share of its impacts.

“Drought, desertification and food shortages are becoming more widespread and the continent faces daily reminders of the dire consequences of inaction. The good news is that, if we act together now, we can solve the climate crisis, [with] Africa already playing a key role in that effort,” he commented.

Strategic African Objectives

The Project would work to attain quite a few strategic goals on Africa, including  the creation of a network and communication hub for qualified Climate Reality Project “leaders” and others in the continent to gather and share information and resources.

Food & Trees for Africa founder Jeunesse Park, who would head up the activities of the Climate Reality Project’s newly formed African branch, said its formation came at a crucial time for the continent, which faced increasing climate instability.

Under the umbrella of the South African NGO Food & Trees for Africa, the division would in addition develop wide-ranging communications “assets”, including workshops, events and social channels to “tell the story” of climate change in Africa.

 “While this presents us with many challenges, we also have the unique opportunity to not only help millions of Africans to understand climate change, but also to innovate and implement solutions that we can share with the rest of the world,” she told Engineering News Online.

Fourth Lesson in Leadership: Confidence

Have you ever come across a leader who lacked confidence? How successful used to be his/ her subordinates? Self-doubt is not difficult to notice. Even if sometimes leaders can benefit from showing a slight vulnerability, it’s crucial that they preserve their control. Being confident enables us to accept bad appreciations, make lucid decisions, and most essentially give our team members a clear idea about the way to take, inspiring them. In other words, it’s much easier to follow a leader who knows where to go and how to walk down the road. Besides that, employees normally feel better to relate to them in times of vulnerability, being an opportunity to provide support.

So how can we develop our self-confidence and be sure that we’re approaching our team elements in a clear way? Despite it doesn’t a straightforward thing to teach and learn, there are some mechanisms that you can activate.

Within an Entrepreneur article, Nadia Goodman gives away three advices for those who want to improve their confidence as leaders:

  1. “Get the facts first – Feelings of anxiety or doubt — both signs of shaky confidence — start with a negative thought, such as “I’m terrible at giving presentations.” Most of the times, those thoughts are false. Put negative thoughts to the test. For example, if you think investors doubt your abilities, ask yourself what evidence you have to support that belief? What evidence do you have against it? If the facts suggest it’s true, then brainstorm solutions to fix the problem. If not, use your list of evidence to help you toss that belief aside.”
  2. “Acknowledge your accomplishments – As you work towards a big goal like launching a product, pay attention to daily successes in order to keep your confidence high. At the end of each day, write down five things you completed or learned.”
  3. “Update your-self image – When we doubt our abilities, we typically remember embarrassing or painful moments when we did that task terribly. But those memories are usually wildly out of date. The reality is that you’re constantly learning, and with experience, you get better at knowing who and how to ask for help. When you go into a doubt-inducing situation, think of all the skills you’ve gained, and act as if you’re that person — the updated, accurate version of yourself who has the experience or know-how to succeed.”

Third Lesson in Leadership: Transparency

The expectation of a superior level of transparency between people who deal with one another, professionally speaking or not, has been fostered by the evolution of social media.

What exactly does transparency mean? Swirling in a storm of information shaped in different ways: e-mails, text messages, YouTube videos, memos, instant messages, and more, it has become so easy for us to dodge one another. In an effort to save time, energy and resources, we have taken a step back from authentically communicating with our teams. This face time is vital to not only creating the key bonds and trust among one another, but also for establishing yourself as a transparent leader.

Nowadays, if the leader plays a clear and transparent role, it will be easier to solve problems faster, develop authentic relationships, and in turn create a deeper sense of trust company-wide. When your employees trust you and feel that they have an important role in what your company is trying to accomplish, they are far more likely to perform at their best and promote a positive work environment with other employees. Instead of worry about the confidential information given to a new employer or an unpaid college intern, the boss of a company must define what information is needed by every colleague or employee. Being clear about that helps to draw the line where starts and finishes each person’s sphere.

As a key component of trust, transparency is an essential element of a great leadership. If you’re thinking about a powerful way to encourage more transparency in your organization this year, consider a group drumming event to kick things off, unite, uplift and inspire your team. It just may be the face time your team was looking for.

Second Lesson in Leadership: Support

How can we provide support to our teams? Do we encourage the team members to support one another? It might be useful to take some time to reflect on your own leadership skills.

Think about the best leaders you’ve met in your life. What kind of characteristics do you find on them in order to make them special? Were they Intelligent? Passionate? Strict? Empathetic? Supportive? Some of the key words possibly came to mind when you built the images of these incredible forces in your world. In order to be a great leader, there are many interpersonal skills that one must acquire. It takes far more than a grand vision and a microphone to lead teams to achieving their goals—it takes the ability to see what individuals truly need to be successful. In many cases, providing support will be paramount.

What does it mean to truly provide support? Is it taking an employee out for lunch to talk about their emotional state? Is it hiring an assistant for an executive to help ease burdens and execute tasks? Is it backing up a team member with a difficult client? The truth is that support can take shape in all of those forms and many more. In a recent article from the Huffington Post titled “Essential Elements of Effective Leadership” by esteemed educator Eric Sheninger, he writes, “Support comes in many forms – financial, time, and professional learning opportunities… Support begins with adopting a ‘no-excuse’ attitude and the resilience to always seek out solutions to the many problems that arise.

In Kevin Eikenberry’s article, “Six Ways Leaders Can Support Team Success,” he makes an incredibly important point when it comes to empowering employees to take care of themselves and one another. As Eikenberry states, “Since [we] know that confidence and a positive attitude and energy will improve individual (and team) results, it is important that you not only do this, but help people do the same for each other. Creating this upward spiral of support and encouragement will grow your team’s results as fast as almost any other thing, and it starts with you.”

So how do we empower our employees to create a more supportive environment? Start by cutting the gossip, venting and negativity. There is a common misconception that people need to vent and “talk it out,” when most often, they are simply looking for validation of their frustrations. There has been much research to support that this breeds hostility, negativity, and is not conducive for building a supportive team. Encourage employees to communicate directly with one another as opposed to airing their feelings with others. This makes it easier to cut down on miscommunications and helps them build trust. When a team trusts one another they are more invested in their roles and more likely to provide support or a listening ear to a co-worker in need, easing both your need to provide constant support as the leader and their need for it.

There are many ways to provide support for those in your organization. Take time to experiment—see what your employees need and what you can effectively deliver.

First Lesson in Leadership: Flexibility

Flexibility in Order to Become a Serving Leader

Dealing with leadership and management issues in the workplace has become more challenging over the past few decades. Within the blog post “Old School Leadership is Out”, Roy Osing brings up some points of view, considering mainly that managers should focus on providing guidance and support rather than assigning tasks. The author distinguishes clearly the old and new-school leadership techniques, making a powerful argument for why we should aim to embody the role he refers to as the, “serving leader.”

Old-school leadership is considered to be “MBWA: Managing By Wandering Around,” is exactly what it sounds like.  Meandering through the workplace keeping an eye out for anything out of the ordinary was at one time an esteemed practice. However, this leadership technique fails to inspire the passion or drive required for successful, meaningful teamwork. Staying flexible is key to tuning into the needs of employees and fostering their development. That’s where new-school leadership comes in.

“New-school leadership can be summed up as “LBSA: Leading By Serving Around.” According to Osing, there is a clear difference between managing and leading. While a manager’s primary focus is, “organizational performance,” the leader’s agenda is more flexible. Leaders, “…offer personal help, recognizing that if someone’s individual problems are solved, performance enhancement follows.”

Supporting Osing ideas, Alan Murray’s article published in The Wall Street Journal, “What is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?”, states that “in the new economy, where value comes increasingly from the knowledge of people, and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers, not just to assign them a task, but to define for them a purpose. On the flip side managers must organize workers, and above all remain flexible in their approach, not just to maximize efficiency, but to nurture skills, develop talent and inspire results.”

The process to develop a serving leader behavior might not be easy but it is worth it. The key to achieving this balance lies entirely in flexibility. Individuals make up teams, and they need to be acknowledged and treated as such. Here are five ways you can start effectively leading your organization right now:

1. Do your research. Determine what and who needs help on your team. Once you’ve identified where you’re needed, you can then begin serving accordingly.

2. Go at it alone… or as a group. Being a serving leader isn’t always a solo act that requires a deep understanding of what individuals need to thrive. For some, groups can be intimidating and they are more likely to open up to you about their needs when approached individually.  For others, knowing there is a team to support them makes them more comfortable. Start with a one-on-one conversation, and take it from there.

3. Talk less, listen more. Monologues from superiors don’t solve problems. Part of being a flexible leader means you need to sit back and listen. It is vital that you fully understand the needs of the individual in front of you. Don’t offer advice until it is clear you know how to best serve them.

4. Follow up. Once a problem is solved, check in to make sure it stays that way. It’s best to nip issues in the bud early on and prevent them from progressing.

5. Continue to lead. Work to embody your inner serving leader in all aspects of your life. From taking the lead with your children or spouse to your friends and coworkers, the more you lead the more natural it will be.

Serving leaders are the trend of the future. They are more concerned with the people that make up their organizations because they understand that satisfied employees who feel valued and heard create better products. As Osing reminds us, “If you take care of the person, performance will take care of itself.”

Satisfaction at Workplace

Hands on Drums_120Rarely people look at their jobs as something joyful

By delivering joy and interactive entertainment, Drum Cafe has been strengthening the ties between the companies’ ethos and respective employees, upgrading the commitment levels and improving productivity. Although it is not an easily measurable variable, it is interesting to observe and quantify the direct impact on the people who experience one of our interactive drumming sessions. Do they go back to work more joyful and consequently more productive?

Some academic authors argue that joy in the workplace leads to more loyalty and greater productivity. The trick is to manifest joy and sustain it so that everyone benefits, adjusting the individuals objectives to the collective goals. Let’s say one base note of a drum symbolizes a moment of joy. If you stay in the rhythm of that base note and then add new notes, new tones – you soon have a sustained rhythm that resonates and moves forward. That one note of joy has grown into something so alive – a percussive ensemble if you will – that in conjures up new possibilities.

It’s no accident that Drum Cafe‘s programs are designed to start with the base notes and then grow in complexity.  That’s the way most strong foundations begin. So when it comes to injecting joy into the lifeblood of your company, starting one strong beat at a time – literally – is a great way to begin.

Maybe joy is sitting there at our desks right alongside ‘drive’ and ‘focus’. Perhaps it’s time we give joy a place on the whiteboard that lists all the critical ingredients that lead to success at our jobs.