top of page
  • Writer's pictureGinny Wolf


Every step we take is rhythm. Every word we speak is rhythm.~ Foli

FOLI (there is no movement without rhythm) original version by Thomas Roebers and Floris Leeuwenberg

Stealing the Drum ~ A West African Folk Tale

Long ago a boy named Kofi was hunting in the jungle when the ground beneath his feet began to shudder, and he heard a haunting sound from far away.

Kofi stopped in his tracks. The sound caused his heart to throb and filled his mind so completely that he could think of nothing else. "I must find the source of that sound," he said aloud, and he began to run through thick brush, swinging from vines, crossing streams and crawling when the bushes were too thick to breach.

The sound grew louder and louder, and now he hid behind a tree and peered into a clearing where he saw a powerful lion beating upon a drum. As the lion pounded his paws upon that drum, the sound seemed to spiral into the sky.

The rhythm enveloped Kofi, and he felt as if he were being transported up from the earth. Then, when he turned his head, he saw a most amazing sight. It was not only he who loved this music.

There, in the clearing just beside the lion, Kofi saw that every single jungle animal was dancing. Every last one!

The sunbird perched upon the baboon's shoulder as the baboon bounced up and down. The hartebeest and aardvark twisted in circles while the hippos swayed around the elephants and the warthogs stomped and snorted. Leopards and antelopes, duikers and bushbuck, parrots and eagles leaped and whirled and swooped to the beat of the drum.

To keep from joining in this animal dance, Kofi held his breath and gripped the tree. He knew he did not belong with these creatures, and if he dared show himself, they might turn upon him. Still, his feet were tapping the ground and his fingers itched to pound on the drum himself. He wanted nothing more than to dance.

When the sun began to set, Kofi thought the lion might quit, but he kept on drumming, this time using another drum that made a deeper, even fuller sound, and the animals danced on. As darkness fell, Kofi knew he must go home, and so he turned and hurried back the way he had come. He couldn't wait to tell the villagers of his discovery.

The moment he reached the edge of his village, a young man cried out, "There's Kofi! He's home!" and Kofi realized that he had worried everyone. The jungle could be dangerous; his mother surely thought he had been killed.

Kofi found her in tears. "But Mother, don't cry. You must listen. I've seen the animals dance, and I've heard the most amazing sounds."

His mother stopped crying and stared at her son. "Kofi," she said sternly, "don't you lie to me. Just because you're late for supper and you worried me nearly to death, you need not invent a tale."

"But Mother," Kofi argued, "I'm not lying. I never lie."

This went on for quite some time, and at last Kofi's mother said angrily, "Come, we'll go talk to the chief." She dragged Kofi from the house, and as they marched through the village, many people began to follow them. Everyone wondered what the chief would say about this dishonest boy.

When his mother told the chief the story, he shook his head. "Kofi, what sort of invention is this?" he asked.

"I've invented nothing," Kofi said. "I saw all the animals dancing, and I heard sounds so wonderful that I couldn't tear myself away."

Kofi's mother and the chief exchanged one of those looks adults give each other when they know a child is not telling the truth. They raised their eyebrows. They pursed their lips. They shook their heads.Kofi exploded angrily, "But it's all true. Every word I tell you is the truth!"

Kofi's words enraged the chief. "Telling one lie is one thing," he said, "but we are an honest people, and we never cover up a lie with yet another one. Go into the jungle and live with your dancing animals until you learn to tell the truth!"

"Go, go, go," the villagers chanted, and though his mother was brokenhearted, she knew this would be best. She could not raise a dishonest boy.

Kofi set off into the dark, shivering with fear, for there was not a single ray of light in the jungle. He could hear the sounds of every creature all around him, but he could see nothing at all. Presently he lay down and carefully covered himself with leaves, and then he cried himself to sleep.

When the sun rose, Kofi hurried back to the clearing where he had watched the animals dance, and once again he was amazed at the sight. Kofi began to think if he could only steal a drum, the chief and his mother would believe him when he described its magical sound. Yes, he thought. He must do that or he was doomed.

Suddenly, breaking from his cover, he charged at the lion, and before the lion knew what was happening, Kofi grabbed one of the drums and ran away. He ran as fast as he could, never once looking back, never stopping even to catch his breath. When he reached the village, he held up the drum for all to see.

"This is it!" he cried out in excitement, "the source of the magical sound," and he began to beat the drum just as he had seen the lion do. The sound pleased him, so he drummed harder, and soon the people's feet were tapping the ground. The people could not help themselves. Every single person in the village began to dance.

As long as Kofi played that drum, the people danced. And forever afterward, when Kofi beat the drum, they danced to the sound, and they understood that Kofi had told the truth from the beginning. The animals' drum was truly magical, for no one could resist it. Everyone shared in its power to move all of Earth's creatures.

Porangui ~ Agua Doce

To see these creations and more please be sure to check out my shop on


59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page