Lesson 37: The Little Drummer Boy

Gopal was a happy boy, with big, kind eyes that lit up when he smiled.

He lived with his mother in a small hut in a village in Gujarat. Ever since he had
seen the drummers play at the garba dance during the festival of Navaratri, he
really, really wanted a drum. He loved the sound made by this musical instrument.

Every day, Gopal woke up before sunrise and hurried to finish his chores. He
gathered dung from the cowshed next to their hut, shaped it into patties, and
spread them out to dry in the sun. Later, he would collect the patties in a bamboo
basket and carry the basket to the stove in the corner of the yard where Ma cooked.

Once Gopal had finished all his chores, he spent his time drumming on a tin pot
his mother had given him. She had promised to buy him a proper drum and was
saving money for it.

Ma made a living by grinding flour for the shopkeepers in the village. The
shopkeepers then sold the flour in little paper packets. As she moved the grinding
stone to crush the grain, Gopal became a little drummer boy.

He sat on the mud floor, placed the tin pot upside down on his lap, and tapped his
fingers on it. His fingers were strong and nimble, and moved very fast. His drumming
was in step with the movement of his mother’s hands as she ground the grain.

He could produce any sound, to any beat or rhythm. He played the sounds of the
earth shaking, the ocean waves crashing, and the wind howling. He played the
sounds of rainwater dripping from the roof, of birds tapping at the tree trunk with their
beaks, and of the quickly moving feet of garba dancers.

And as he played, he sang:
If I had a drum, a big drum, a big bass drum,
My heart would boom, boom, boom.
Tak dhama dhoom dhoom dhoom!

A) Vocabulary
Make sentences with the following words. The sentences must show that you
understand the meaning of the words.

Garba — a form of dance which originated in the state of Gujarat; traditionally
performed during the nine-day Hindu festival Navaratri
Instrument — a tool or device for doing a particular kind of work; a device used to
produce music
Chore — housework or any hard, dull work; a small job that is done regularly
Dung — the excretion of cattle, used as fertiliser, manure, or fuel
Cowshed — a shed, hut, or shelter where cows stay
Yard — an enclosed area of open ground near a building; it can have a fence or wall
or a border of shrubs
Pound — to crush, grind, or beat something into a powder or paste; to hit with force
again and again
Flour — wheat or other cereal that is ground into a fine powder
Nimble — light and quick in movement
Rhythm — a sound that is repeated in a set pattern, a sequence of sounds that is
Crashing — a loud noise as when something breaks
Howling — a loud, long sound

B) Discussion points

1. Which Indian state does the dance garba come from?
2. What did Gopal hurry to finish?
3. What did Gopal enjoy the most?
4. Which musical instrument do you like the most? Why?
5. Do you play, or would you like to learn to play, a musical instrument?
6. Name five Indian musical instruments. Are they string, wind, or percussion
7. Name two string, two wind, and two percussion instruments.
8. Which musical instruments are the following associated with:
a) Pandit Ravi Shankar
b) Amjad Ali Khan
c) Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma
d) Zakir Hussain
e) Vilayat Khan
f) Hari Prasad Chaurasia
g) Bismillah Khan
h) Lalgudi Jayaraman

C) Poem

The Music of Life

Music has the power
to help and to heal,
It’s truly amazing,
how it makes us feel.
It brings us hope
and a positive mind.
Motivates us
to be friendly and kind.

Write one four-line stanza of your own. You do not have to use rhyming words.
Start the stanza with the words: Music brings/has . . .

Revised July 2020

Audio courtesy Tara Kriplani: