THE sounds of the drums are the sound of life for the young drummers of the Hebrew Family. Despite living in a western society where 21st century music has been embraced by most millennials, these young men have made a conscious effort to remember their roots and have incorporated it into their daily lives. For the sextet; Hodael Yisrael, Yiverekayahoo Yisrael, Nehchemiyah Yisrael, Shmuel Yisrael, Ovadyah Yisrael and sh’matiel Yisrael- they were born into drumming, but they are on a mission to educate other youths, especially those of African descent to embrace their heritage and learn to love the sound of the drums; the very sounds their ancestors lived by. “Drumming has always been a part of African culture, so we incorporated drumming since we lost it for many years. Some of us grew up seeing the drummers before us drum. What I’m saying is, it’s a cultural thing that’s passed down from generation to generation,” Sh’matiel related.
Giving a brief history of the Hebrew Family in Guyana, he explained that it all started about 40 years ago. “When our spiritual leader Cohane Michael Ben Levi, was given the mandate by his teacher to come to Guyana, a meeting had taken place between Cohane Levi Ben Levi and former President LFS Burnham about birthing a Hebrew Isrealite community in Guyana. Cohane Levi Ben Levi felt it was imperative as an African people returning to our culture, to incorporate the drums into our shabbath, or holy seasons or festivities as well,” he said.
Over the last few years, the group has gained some momentum and has been performing at various cultural functions especially in the presence of President David Granger. It is not about popularity, Sh’matiel explained though, but about bringing like-minded ones to the sounds of the drums. “One’s source of strength comes from knowing who one is. So I’d admonish the Afro- Guyanese to research who they are, not to say there isn’t a love for youths of other ethnic backgrounds because for us, there is love for humanity as our mission statement is: in service to humanity, but one must love their self, first by extension, love others because self-love is true love and by that, youths would embrace their culture, despite their ethnicity,” he said.
Presently the Hebrew family is celebrating the holy month of Etaneem, which is the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar. It’s the most holy month because there are more holy days in this one month than any other month in the Hebrew calendar.