They were pounding to the beat of 125 drummers.

With drummer David Cox of Rhythm Path leading the way, students at Bellaire Elementary School in Killeen used authentic west African djembe drums Tuesday in drum circles.

The Wichita Falls-based drummer studied music in Mali and Senegal, taking in the cultural practice of welcoming guests and honoring special friends through song and dance.

With a goat-skin-covered drum strapped to his front, Cox led students, seated in concentric circles with drums in front of them, to tap out various syllables and words.

“If you can say it, you can play it,” Cox said and students repeated the phrase through the exercises.

Bellaire counselor Theodosia Varnado said she read about the benefits of drumming for teambuilding and for calming children. She saw Cox do a presentation in Georgetown and proposed bringing him to Killeen.

“I’m excited,” she said in the middle of the day as kindergarten students took part in the drumming. “I can see them beat out the stress. I can see the smiles on their faces.”

In the villages of many west African countries, residents pay musicians to perform songs to honor specific people, Cox told students.

“It has an incredible impact,” the drummer said between performances. “They need rhythm. It helps overall learning, listening and creativity.”

He said the circle formation required students to work together as a team and that the directions he gave them helped teach self-discipline.

The drummer led classes in a Yabo, a song of praise and thanks.

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