Drum Cafe’s Drumstruck team member with Dolly Parton. The group, together with Parton, entertained international audiences with their interactive drumming theatre experience at Dollywood theme park, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, in the US. Picture: Curtis Hilbun Dollywood
Seven local drumming masters are making their way home after sharing a stage with award-winning country music legend Dolly Parton at one of the largest theme parks in the US.

Drum Cafe’s Drumstruck team entertained international audiences with their interactive drumming theatre experience at Dollywood, Tennessee, performing in the popular Festival of Nations at the Dollywood theme park in Pigeon Forge, which attracts close to 3 million visitors a year.

Founder Warren Lieberman said that when Drum Cafe started out, it was all about teaching people how to get along using music and drums to make them like each other better.

“When you drum together you can’t fight each other,” he said.

In 2002, after much success as an interactive drumming experience for corporates, the company decided to make a theatre show of it.

“Everyone was asking to see us. We planned it for about a year and brought our first show. It was a huge success and we have been touring the world ever since.”

Parton joined the South African cast at their opening show, wearing a drum and playing it on stage with Drumstruck.

In her opening talk, Parton emphasised the importance of connecting through the international language of music. She introduced Drumstruck, describing them as a group that “will get your heart pumping”.

Lieberman said it was through a producer in the US that they were able to connect with Parton.

“The head of Dollywood saw some of our footage and booked us. We were so excited.”

After an intense five-week run playing three shows a day for six days a week, the crew are now coming back home to rest.

“We initially did rehearsals for three weeks in Joburg before the team left. They are fit and strong and simply the best. Finding the right people for the team has been an important factor for us,” Lieberman said.

Drumstruck showcases South African music and culture, drawing on gumboot rhythms and Zulu dancing, while weaving in West African influences. Over 80000 people attended Drumstruck in the Dollywood Palace Theatre, where they performed for 900 people playing 900 drums.

The team took 1000 drums on the trip, to allow them to share traditional African drumming techniques with the international audiences.

The master drummers have shared the stage with Shakira, Will.i.am, K’naan, and Thirty Seconds to Mars, and performed at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

They have also toured Japan, South Korea, Australia and Scotland, among others, and enjoyed an almost two-year run off Broadway in New York.

“We are now aiming for a tour in Europe and America. We have done Asia extensively and want to do shows just as big in other parts of the world,” Lieberman said.