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Bringing the big drum to Deer Lake

Perry Young will be a part of the aboriginal drum group performing at the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Deer Lake in March.
Perry Young will be a part of the aboriginal drum group performing at the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games in Deer Lake in March. - Frank Gale

When Perry Young speaks about the big drum in a drumming group he refers to it as the “people’s drum.”

It is their drum and wherever it gets called, the drum group goes, according to the Stephenville resident.

It is for that reason that Young and others (Troy Benoit, Larry Neville and Mark Day) will be playing the big drum as a part of the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2018 Newfoundland and Labrador Winter Games being held in Deer Lake in March.

For that reason, attending the ceremonies is starting to pique my interest. I’ve never been party to a drum circle before and it’d be interesting to see how it all plays out.

I have been to a couple of opening ceremonies and they’re always a good time, as well as a fine way to promote your areas culture.

The drumming group has played events all over the west coast because they were asked and felt an obligation to bring the instrument made by Benoit out of moose hide and maple wood to the people.

The big drum is a key component of Mi’kmaq culture.

The drum represents a gift to men and is symbolic of the mother’s heartbeat.

It’s traditionally played by only men, but there has been a recent movement to have women around the instrument, as well.

The practice involves at least four people drumming rhythmically while singing a series of culturally significant songs.

The Deer Lake Games are running March 10-17 at various venues across western Newfoundland. While the majority of the Games are being played in Deer Lake, there are a couple of sports that are being played outside of the community.

Although, these Games have seemingly snuck up on us. There’s been little fanfare outside of an event launch featuring National Hockey League legend Paul Coffey a month and half back.

We’ve seen the medals, the swag and the logos, the usual buzz just hasn’t been there.

With that said, The Games are still a big deal for athletes in this province and the ceremonies at the beginning and the end are usually well attended.

In the past they’ve been broadcast on television across the province, giving plenty of exposure to artists who have performed for athletes and officials.

The plan is for the group of men on the drums to open their performance with the anthem and follow that up with “The Honour Song” and “The Eagle Song.”

Right now there are just four people, but Young said there is an open invitation for youth with aboriginal roots to get on stage with them to help with the performance.

When asked about the exposure playing an event like the Games could give the act of ceremonial drumming, Young saw it as a way to give people some insight into his culture.

“It is acknowledging who we are and being proud of where you’re from,” he said.

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