Drumming for Fun and Profit

The New York Times May 15, 2005
Drumming for Fun and Profit


Over the years, many entertainers have learned that the skills that can move an audience to laugh or cry can be more lucratively employed inspiring a roomful of executives to sell cars or computers.

With the arrival of “Drumstruck” at Dodger Stages, that process has been reversed: a corporate motivational business has spun off an Off Broadway play.

The South African entrepreneur Warren Lieberman has spent the last eight years developing an international business based on a seemingly endless supply of hand-carved African djembe drums. In his corporate programs, which grew out of weekly jam sessions held at his drum Cafe in Johannesburg, anywhere from 15 to several thousand participants, each equipped with his or her own djembe, develop team-building skills by drumming in unison.

“It breaks down barriers of age, race and gender with a unifying activity,” said Aviva Nash, a high school classmate of Mr. Lieberman who runs the New York City branch of the business (www.drumcafeny.com). “From the mailroom guy to the C.E.O., every member is as important as the other.” At “Drumstruck”, which begins previews on Thursday, each seat will hold a two-foot-tall drum, and audience members will join the show’s 11 South and West African percussionists in making a rhythmic racket.

“Drumstruck” has had successful engagements in Johannesburg and Sydney, Australia, although the motivational business is likely to remain Mr. Lieberman’s profit center: an hour-long Drum Cafe session, which comes with a facilitator and team of African drummers.