The sound men swept in on their once-a-year visit
to listen to the show, to hear
the orchestra’s sounds with outsider ears.
Could I hear that percussion part again?
one of them asked through a microphone,
wanting to inspect an African drum in isolation.
The drum played solo,
self-conscious of its double sound
of bass boom and snare buzz.
There’s a strange noise to that drum
the sound man declared with the certainly of judgement,
that doesn’t sound right he said,
his voice launched from afar.
A moment of perceptual shift:
background becomes foreground,
a rhythm becomes clear,
the sound man is the colonizer,
the drum the colonized,
misunderstood, almost ashamed
of its kente designs and noisy roots.
If the instrument had a chance to throw back questions through patterns—
what do you know and how do you know it?
and how do you come by your listening stance?
—it would speak and get even,
but for now its silence was submission.