By curating a community of African drumming, ‘Motherland Music’ is a cultural connection

Motherland1: Malik Sow’s weekly Saturday Djembe class (Brea Mitchell/Photos)

When visiting Inglewood’s ‘Motherland Music’ for the first time, one may be pleasantly surprised at what they find. You will pull up to park your car in the narrow, crowded driveway while thinking, “How long has this been here? And why have I never been before?”

Motherland2: inside look of Motherland Music (Brea Mitchell/Photos

You’ll open your car door and immediately hear the rhythmic, beating drums vibrating from the back of the cozy, house-like building. As you follow the catchy beat down the driveway and to the back of the building, you will be met with a quaint, outdoor nook area, where Motherland Music hosts their weekly community ‘drum circles’. Drummers of all experience levels show up to play together, with the common goal of expressing themselves free of charge.

But outdoor drum circles are just a small part of what Motherland Music offers. Past the outdoor nook area lies a garage space that is used as an instrument repair shop. The garage is filled with African drums and other instrument parts, and staff members working tediously repairing or rebuilding the instruments that are brought in by their clients.

In the garage is a door that leads to an inside space where African drum lessons are regularly held, led by highly-experienced instructors. Malik Sow, who hails from Senegal, has been teaching classes at Motherland Music for over twenty years. His Saturday Djembe class is among the most popular.

Inside the building where classes are held, walls and shelves are filled with instruments on display for sale. When regularly taking classes and attending drum circles, clients are encouraged to purchase their own instruments– getting the repetition in at home is a large part in further mastering the craft.

But African drumming is about much more than just playing an instrument.

“African culture is in our DNA. A lot of people, growing up, don’t know their culture. This is about where people can connect with that, maybe through drumming, and then start digging in deeper,” says Lunden Rice, operator of Motherland Music.

Rice’s father opened Motherland Music nearly thirty years ago following his own trips to West Africa. He would learn skills from the West African drummers and became further intrigued with the craft, longing to learn more.

As a carpenter and woodworker, he was able to understand the makings and mechanics of the drums. As he began to bring drums back to California from his trips, his passion grew. But for the time being, his crafting and playing remained in the backyard of his home. But not for long. Eventually, years later, Motherland Music was born.

Now, it’s an ever-growing community with a warm, welcoming space to immerse in cultural roots. In the upcoming future, Rice looks forward to hosting more community events, birthday parties, and even events for the city of Inglewood.

The eager clients and students floating in and out of Motherland Music on a daily basis– the smiles and conversations, the hellos and goodbyes in passing, and the fact that Operator Lunden Rice seems to know every person in the building by name – lets you know that for many, Motherland Music feels like home.


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