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African drumming brings joy to Wake Forest seniors, from a distance

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Members of Dayo Rhythms perform at Cadence Living in Wake Forest.
Amber Revels-Stocks | The Wake Weekly

WAKE FOREST — The sounds of drumming and singing filled the parking lot of a local senior living community Thursday while residents enjoyed the sunshine and a chance to come together ­— safely.

Dayo Rhythms, a West African drumming group, performed in the parking lot of Cadence Living to bring joy to the residents during COVID-19, according to resident lifestyle director Thedora Lee.

“We need our residents and everybody else to know: Yes, this is a crisis; however, we have the appropriate distance” between seats, she said. “We’re going to enjoy this beautiful day, this fresh air. We want our residents to know they do not have to be confined to the building.”

Staff members measured 6 feet between chairs while the performers were at least 15 feet away from the residents. Any outside guests stayed in their vehicles to watch and listen to the performance.

Cadence Living moved quickly to get ahead of COVID-19, according to marketing and sales director Lewis Brunson.

“We’ve really been limiting the services that are coming in,” he said. “We love our vendors and we love the other businesses in the community that like to visit with us, but right now, our priority is keeping our residents safe so we’ve limited that a bit. We’ve developed a great relationship with the community, but right now is not the best time to have our partners enter the building.”

Having the event outside allowed community members to visit Cadence Living, he added.

“We still wanted to have people be able and come and enjoy our community. We wanted our residents to still be able to come together and do something while still staying coronavirus safe,” Brunson said. “So we had to put our brainpower in action, and we were able to come up with this idea of doing it outdoors and still being able to have a safe space to be able to witness something and make it almost like a drive-in aspect to invite the community to enjoy from the safety of their own vehicles.”

Lee wanted to invite Dayo Rhythms because drumming can be enjoyed from farther away. It also brings joy and culture to the residents.

“If you look at all my residents, some of them have been all over the world and some have not, so we’re going to Africa without leaving North Carolina,” Lee said.

The word “dayo” means “joy has arrived,” according to the group’s director and founder Ronnie Pulley.

“We love going out and bringing the joy of African music. This is West African music. It’s very joyful,” Pulley said. “We have been (performing) for quite some time, so we were very excited about the opportunity to do this during a time where a lot of people are locked in and unable to get out and enjoy a live show.”

The group was glad Cadence Living made sure to follow the principles of social distancing, including making sure the group was not near the residents, Pulley added.

“We’ve performed outside before, but this isn’t typical,” Pulley said, referring to keeping distance from the audience. “I hope that they get a feeling of happiness and joy and experience the love of music that we have for it and leave feeling inspired and connected and energized.”

Since Cadence Living is restricting visitors to the facility, Lee encouraged children and others currently at home to make drawings and cards for senior residents.

“If they (make cards), call me,” Lee said. “We can set up a time for them to drop the cards off at the front door or I can meet them somewhere or come pick them up.”

To contact Lee, call 919-569-2101.