Boston History Travel- Revering the Past

Revering Boston’s place in History…

Boston is a significant beacon in the history of this country, so it’s difficult to come here and be oblivious to the people and the landmarks that have laid the foundations of the nation (like the Boston Tea Party, pictured right).

Boston is littered with the most amazing history, literally hundreds of years of battles and wars and tales of true heroism from ordinary citizens.

While we may have mentioned a couple of things you might want to see or do if you’re in Boston for a few days, this section will give you a grander look at how much the city and people of Boston have shaped the rest of the country. The Boston National Historic Park groups of many of the landmarks that were crucial in the lead up to the American Revolution.

A good starting point, like we said before, is the Freedom Trail which showcases seven of the eight landmarks. A red brick line cemented into the ground will lead you through the greatest historic landmarks of the city. Starting off at Boston Common (though you can join up later at any point), your guide in traditional colonial dress will talk you through the facts on each location.

You then travel to Paul Revere’s original house (where he lived during his famous midnight ride), and onto the statue of Benjamin Franklin (left) and the site of the Boston Massacre.

If you get the chance to stroll along Atlantic Avenue, pay attention to where you put your feet. Most of the ground is made up of landfill from the remnants of the Great Boston Fire of 1872!

Some really fantastic tours and trails are also in the area, depending on what your interests are and how you want to go about it. Land or sea or both? The Boston Duck Tour uses WWII style tour buses that double up as boats! Drive along the Boston city streets and then seamlessly float your way along the Charles River where you get great views of the city.

A really great tour is the Black Heritage Trail, a must do if you have the time. Massachusetts was the first state to outlaw slavery in 1783, so this Boston trail explores many of the landmark sites that were crucial at that point in history. Boston was a sought-after town at the time of the Underground Railroad and many freed slaves and Railroad organizers were based in Boston. This trail takes you around 15 sites and structures, including many in Beacon Hill and the Lewis and Harriet Hayden House.

The Harbor Walk follows the Boston Harbor shoreline, a fairly long, self guided tour so you can take it at your own pace.

For a different kind of Boston city history, the old Bull & Finch Pub on Beacon Street was once the famous exterior of Sam Malone’s bar in Cheers. It’s now actually called the Cheers Beacon Hill, so it’s even harder to miss if you were a fan of the show. You can find it on Beacon Street.

Djembe Music History and Culture – Part One

This djembe history guide is taken from my very simplistic research and is based on the stories I have been told by various djembe teachers, other music teachers, elders and historians that I have spoken to whilst travelling in West Africa. I can’t guarantee its accuracy and would welcome feedback from any interested reader who thinks that any part of it is incorrect.

Early West African Cultural History

It focuses mainly on the history of the Mande Empire of West Africa and how it has influenced djembe playing today. The ‘modern’ history of West Africa was mainly influenced by colonialism (and its subsequent demise) but this has also led to some confusion as the different languages (French, English and the indigenous dialects) often use different words to describe the same thing. For the purposes of this study, the following interpretations are used: Mande – the original homeland considered to be the larger stretch of the river Niger roughly between Kouroussa (Guinea) and Bamako (Mali). (Mande can be referred to as Mali). Malinke – those people who remain geographically within the homeland of Mali and Guinea Mandinka – those people who have settled further West in the Senegambia area (Senegal and Gambia) The most important thing to remember is that the period of history we are talking about here was before colonialism and before the borders of Guinea, Senegal etc., were formed. You have to imagine, therefore a vast area without these borders (but I will of course refer to the names of these ‘modern’ countries for ease of understanding).

The Beginning of the Djembe

The West African Mande empire was established early in the 13th century by a legendary warrior called Sunjata. At its height, in the 14th to 16th centuries, it was an extremely powerful empire and had expanded to Gao in the East (just near the Niger river at the Mali/Niger border), Timbuktu in the North and all the way West to the Atlantic coast. In the Mande society, there were four classes of hereditary professional artisans; blacksmiths-sculptors (numu), leatherworkers and potters (karanke), musicians/singers (jeli) and orators (fina). It is thought that drumming is closely associated with the blacksmith/sculptors and goes back thousands of years, well before the Mande empire was formed.

The Jeli, regarded as the guardians of Mande music and oral traditions, played the Balafon, Koni and Kora. They were an extremely important part of Mande culture and society and were coveted by the king.

Ethnic Music and Instruments

There is a clear and fundamental distinction in Mande society between jeli and nonjeli musicians; the jeli have a duty to devote their lives to music and this will be transferred through generations. The nonjeli, however, often faced resistance from their families if they chose to dedicate their life to music. They also tended to work in nonjeli spheres of music (such as djembe and drumming). Part 2 of this History will follow soon.