WORDS: Claire Curry
Adelaide’s own Amazing Drumming Monkeys show is 20 years old in 2024. The incredibly popular act that features puppets playing on djembe drums has been representing South Australia all over the country and internationally in places like Bahrain, China, Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand and Taiwan.
As far and wide as they have travelled, it’s mostly the kids of Adelaide that have grown up with the monkeys. And now, two decades on, show creator and performer Xavier Beaubois is noticing that his original audiences are returning:
We call it the “second wave” or “Peter Combe” effect – whereby the children who grew up with the monkeys are starting to bring their own kids to the show! We are only at the start of this phase, but it is happening and will no doubt grow over the coming years.
This intergenerational connection extends to Xavier’s own family with his 13-year-old daughter, Cedar, joining him in performances last year in China. His older daughter, Kira (22), who was the original inspiration for the act, is now studying film at Flinders University. She has made a short documentary to celebrate the milestone and tell the backstory of it’s creation.
As struggling musicians trying to make a living out of playing and making djembe drums, life was challenging. After a tough day of busking Xavier and his partner Tori often went home feeling a bit dejected. Their drumming was at a high standard, however they needed to hold the audiences attention.
“[One] evening I wanted to practice my drumming, and my 2 year old daughter Kira wanted me to play with her monkey. I picked up her plush monkey, and played a drum with the monkey’s hands. She laughed so hard, and even said “Djummin Monkey”. That was a light bulb moment, and the concept was born,” reflects Xavier.
Now 20 years later, that same little girl has made a video for the 20 year anniversary featuring a chronological montage of the journey. It also shows how the monkeys started out drumming to mostly adult crowds at electronic music festivals, then the progression into more of a kids show becoming a regular feature at Adelaide Fringe, WOMADelaide and other festivals around the country.
Take a look at the milestone movie here, and join the celebrations at this year’s Adelaide Fringe.
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