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Breaking the Silence: Beating the Drum, International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade, 25 March 2009

Listen to the Drumbeat"We must acknowledge the great lapse in moral judgment that allowed [the Transatlantic Slave Trade] to happen. We must urge present and future generations to avoid repeating history. We must acknowledge the contributions that enslaved Africans made to civilization. And countries that prospered from the slave trade must examine the origins of present-day social inequality and work to unravel mistrust between communities. Above all, even as we mourn the atrocities committed against the countless victims, we take heart from the courage of slaves who rose up to overcome the system which oppressed them."

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Listen to the Drumbeat (Video)


The three-minute video invites viewers to organize events on 25 March in Commemoration of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade. It moves across cultures to show how the trade has influenced countries and artistic genres all over the world. A big bang on a drum symbolizes the beginning of the trade. From that point, we follow the dances and polyphonic rhythms of the African continent to a range of musics and dances in the Americas. From cow bells to talking drums, from mystic drums to candomblé, from ngoni to berimbau, the fighting and mystic spirit of drums accompanied enslaved black people everywhere, and the dance moves and sounds have remained almost intact. In Asia, in the Americas, in the Middle East, in Europe, rituals of African slaves and their soulful drumming touched all civilizations.

With salsa, rumba, blues, jazz, rock and roll, hip hop, and fusion but also Asian drumming, qawwali and ghazals, drums were never silenced. They brought the capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian art form that makes a ritual of movements from martial arts marked by fluid acrobatic play and feints.

The drum beat, slow and fast at times like a West African tempo from the Gold Coast, sad or joyful from tango to meringue, remains consistent in its universal appeal. Indeed, drums continue to carry to men and women of all color and creed a message that all understand: it is the soothing or haunting sound of freedom, even when journeys are harsh or long. Everywhere, drums give birth to a simple truth: every time you beat the drum, you break the silence.