New Victory Arts Break: Africa – Create

Welcome to Create Week of our exploration of Africa. In last week’s Arts Break, we met some members of South Africa’s Isango Ensemble and explored their community. This week, let’s look closer at Isango Ensemble’s work as music-makers and performers. Then, we’ll make some music of our own!

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New Victory Arts Break Africa Create


As we learned from Isango Ensemble member Siyanda previously, umculo is an isiXhosa word that means art, music and reconciliation. Let’s learn more about the musicality that inspires and moves Isango Ensemble!

Grab your New Victory Notebook and let’s note some of the things we noticed in the video!

  • Do you play any instruments? What is one instrument you would love to learn to play?
  • The djembe drum can be made using all different materials, including natural elements. What items from nature could you imagine using to create musical instruments?
  • What new instruments were introduced to you in this video?

Percussive Body, Instruments and More!

It is time to learn a bit more about percussion! Watch New Victory Teaching Artist Signe Harriday as she takes us through a percussive journey through beats we can find with our bodies!

Here are just a few of the different drums found around the continent of Africa!


Djembe drum
Image credit: Hamill Gallery


Dundun drum
Image credit: Smithsonian Music


Bata drums
Image credit: Angel Romero, World Music Central


Chamba drum
Image credit: Hamill Gallery


Tonga drum
Image credit: Hamill Gallery

Inspired to craft more instruments of your own? Follow along with New Victory Education Fellow William Porter as he teaches us the ways he makes instruments at home.

Materials: Cup, a circle maker (a lid or round shape to trace), pen or marker, glue stick, paper, items to decorate your drum

Step One: Lay your piece of paper flat on your working surface. Then, take your circle maker (lid, bowl, etc.) and make a circle on the paper that is at least three inches wider than your cup’s opening.



Step Two: Cut out the circle you made on your paper for the drum skin. Then, glue your paper circle to the top of your cup.

Glue stick

Step Three: Leave your cup to dry. When your cup is secured to the paper, turn it over. Take the scissors and trim the edges of the paper, cutting off the excess paper.


Step Four: Take decorations of your choice and decorate the sides of your drum. You can use stickers, strings, tissue paper, paint, glitter, or any other decorations you have handy.


Step Five: Drum away!

Also, check out our Songwriting Arts Break for even more musical instrument craft options! You’ll have a band for your ensemble in no time.

Sound Adventure Box

Let’s now create a box filled with your favorite sounds, represented through pictures and objects found and created by you. This box will take you on a musical adventure!

Materials: Cardboard box or container, paper, scissors, markers/crayons, glue, tape

Step One: Choose a box that will serve as the vessel for your sounds.

Step Two: Grab your New Victory Notebook and make a list of your favorite sounds. The list might look something like:

My Favorite Sounds

Step Three: Gather materials that make some of your favorite sounds. Think about how you might represent some more abstract sounds in your box. For example, if you have ocean waves as a sound, maybe you can add an image of water or a blue cloth and add them to your box. If you have something at home that makes a fun sound, put that item in the box as well!

Here is our example!

Pass the Tunes

Pass the Tunes

Now, let’s play a game! This game is a lot like the game “Hot Potato,” but with sounds!

Step One: Gather a group of players sitting in a circle. Get the sound box and pass it while saying “Boom, Boom, Boom, Pow!” if you are holding the box when the group says “Pow,” then you have been caught with the sound box. The sounds are in your hands!

Step Two: Whoever is caught with the sound box chooses one object from the box. The group will ask, “What sound does that make?”

Step Three: Make the sound of the object chosen for your group. When you’re done, put that item back in the box. (Someone else might explore that sound differently in the next round!) How many rounds can you play before you run out of sounds to make?

Here is a quick sample round:

Bonus: When the box gets to you, pick more than one item. Try speeding up the sound passing!

Level It Up: Freestyle Music Festival Edition. Everyone picks one sound item from the box. Explore sound with it. Then, one at a time, build a musical show by adding your rhythm and repeating. Play all sounds in the order you choose. It’s a family symphony!

Until next time! Thanks for creating along with us for our adventures in Africa. Come back for next week’s activities to learn about storytelling through song from our New Victory Teaching Artists!

New Victory Arts Break Supporters

New Victory Arts Break is funded, in part, by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.