High School documentary project examines drummers throughout Philly history

Baba Crowder. Credit: Thomas B. Morton.
Robert “Baba” Crowder founded a dance and drum ensemble. Credit: Thomas B. Morton

Kemi Jackson, 16, got a taste of Robert “Baba” Crowder’s legend on a class trip and wanted to know more.

“I never knew who Baba was until now,” Jackson said. “So learning about someone who has been in Philly way longer than me and the impact he had on people’s lives and the community around him was really amazing.”

So for her submission for the 2013 Documentary History Project for Youth, the Academy at Palumbo student examined the memory of the man who founded a dance and drum ensemble and played with many renowned musicians.

“Just learning about him was awesome,” Jackson said.

Scribe Video Center Academy at Palumbo on Sunday premiered “Philly Drums,” a collection of films produced by high school students. The films were screened at the University of the Arts.

Each year the Youth Project focuses on an aspect of the social, political or cultural history of Philadelphia. This year’s documentary projects explored the history of drumming in the city, with themes including the legacy of rock drumming in the city, the combination of drumming and dance, jazz drumming and the career of Robert “Baba” Crowder.

The theme was chosen to honor three local drummers who died last year, including Baba. “And I thought that it would be cool to do it on him since the whole reason we’re doing the history of drumming is because of his passing away,” Jackson said.

Louis Massiah, executive director of Scribe, said making the films taught the students about their community and helped them acquire new skills.

“And discover talents they didn’t know they had,” he said.

The films

“The Legacy of Rock Drumming in Philadelphia,” by Aneesah Islam of New Media Tech Charter School and Olivia Johnson of Harriton High School.

“Give the Drummer Something Real,” by Chris Neal of A. Philip Randolph Career and Technical High School

“African Drumming and Dancing: Marriage through the Ages,” by Gianna Smith of The Episcopal Academy

“Jazz Drumming,” by Edison Quinones-Vasquez of Frankford High School

“The Memory of Robert ‘Baba’ Crowder,” by Kemi Jackson of Academy at Palumbo


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