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Performance African Music and dance

African Music and Dance Director Kofi Gbolonyo performs on talking drum. The Pitt African Ensemble was founded in 1983 by Dr. Willie O. Anku, a Ghanaian ethnomusicologist as an African drumming ensemble. Presently directed by J. S. Kofi Gbolonyo, the ensemble now known as Pitt African Music and Dance Ensemble (PAMDE) specializes in music and dances from Africa. It introduces students to various techniques of drumming, dancing, and other artistic expressions of Africa. As an ensemble, it presents a complete or total African artistic expression—music, dance, drama and visual arts. Through the drum, the voice, the dance, and other visual art forms and paraphernalia, this ensemble brings to the stage a unique African theatrical experience. Besides being a class, the PAMDE is a recognized student organization (known as Pitt African Drumming Club), in which members from various departments come together to share and celebrate the performing arts and cultures of Africa.

J.S. Kofi Gbolonyo

For concert information and tickets, call 412-624-4125, or visit our Event Calendar.

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The ensemble aims to:

(1) Learn and perform African music and dance as they occur in their authentic settings.
(2) Create new forms of African and African derived presentations in a new theatrical context.

(3) Help students gain a broader understanding of traditional and contemporary life in Africa through music and dance.

(4) Create opportunities for students and other interested people to experience the music and dance of the African (both at home and in the Diaspora).

(5) Promote the study of Africa in global perspective through collaborations with other area-studies programs, international centers, professional institutions, departments, organizations, and public schools in the University of Pittsburgh and beyond.

(6) Promote the interdisciplinary study of Africa, and African culture in the university.

(7) Study and perform music and dance in their cultural and social contexts.

(8) Create an environment of cooperation and collaboration among students, faculty, the university, and the larger Pittsburgh community that will lead to increased opportunities for research, teaching, and learning.

Membership of the ensemble comprises of (1) music majors, non-majors, graduate, and undergraduate students (who may choose to earn credit); (2) professors, high school and middle school students, and many other persons within and outside the Pittsburgh community who are interested in African arts and culture. Students may enroll in the ensemble for one semester or on a long term bases (where the course may be repeated for credit). It is therefore strongly advised that students take this course at least two semesters in succession so as to ensure a total understanding, grasp and fun that is embedded in African performing arts.

Our activities include public performances, concerts, lecture demonstrations, workshops, and other educational and entertainment activities that fall inline with the university’s policies. A concert at the end of every semester gives members an opportunity to present what they learned to the public, alongside professional performers of African music and dance. Since its inception, the Pitt African Music and Dance Ensemble continue to reach across the ocean by its very nature, bringing participants into contact with African master artists who enthusiastically share their musical and dance traditions. More recently, the ensemble has been reaching across the Pittsburgh community—a step that aims at encouraging more community participation, education, peace, and unity through African arts and culture. As part of this program the Miller Academy African Ensemble (African-Centered public elementary school), the Schenley High School African Ensemble, the Shona Sharif African Dance and Drum Ensemble from the African Studies Department of the University of Pittsburgh (focuses on African and African-American music and dance), Elekoto Singers (an African Choral), Seed of Rhythm (a multicultural music and dance ensemble) joined Pitt’s artists for their concerts in the past three years. This initiative being steadily pursued by the director is in line with the university’s community outreach program. The Pitt Ensemble and all participating groups and artists provide students, interested individuals, institutions, and the larger community with direct experiences in African music and dance activities which are tightly intertwined and serve as unifying factor in traditional African cultures. The program has so far been very successful and promises brighter future and useful educational tool for the University and the Pittsburgh community. While we continue to work hard to expand our program and to reach out to many more souls and talents, the music department and the ensemble hope the university, the Pittsburgh community, and organizations would continue to enjoy, patronize, and sponsor our projects and concerts.


Adowa: Adowa is a social music and dance among the Akan of Ghana. It is one of the most widespread traditional musical types among the people. Although performed by both sexes, it is best described in Akan musical traditions as a women's dance because the dance is dominated by women.

Agbadza: Agbadza is a social and recreational musical type among the Southern Ewe of Ghana, Togo and Benin. Derived from an older war dance called Atrikpui, Agbadza is one of the oldest and most popular musical types among the Ewe.

Atsiagbekor: Atsiagbekor is originally a war music and dance performed after battle. It is one of the oldest and most complex traditional musical types among the Ewe and Fon of Ghana, Togo, and Benin. It is now performed on most social occasions.

Bamaaya: Bamaaya is originally a traditional religious music and dance of the Dagbamba of Northern Ghana. Bamaaya, meaning "the river (valley) is wet", is the most popular social music and dance of the Dagbamba today.

Boboobo: Boboobo, also known as Agbeyeye "new life", or Akpese "music of joy and freedom" is the most popular social music and dance of the Central and Northern Ewe of Ghana, Togo and Benin. It's derived from an older dance called Konkoma in Kpando in the Volta Region during Ghana's independence struggle in the 1950s

Dibon: Dibon is a Malinke traditional music that is played to accompany farmers returning from work. The rhythms imitate the calls of particular species of birds. The Malinke are located in Guinea in West Africa.

Etike: Etike is one of the recreational dance drumming that have no ritual significance and are purely for leisure among the Yoruba of Nigeria. Dundun, the hourglass-shaped drum, popularly known as "talking drum" leads Etike ensemble.

Fontomfrom: Fontomfrom is an Akan traditional music associated with royals, warriors and politics. It is the most complex of all musical types of the Akan of Ghana. It is a series of warrior dances that are performed in political, ceremonial and social contexts at the courts of kings and chiefs.

Gahu: Gahu emanated from the musical traditions associated with marriage and wedding rites of the Yoruba of Nigeria. Presently, the Southern Ewe of Ghana, Togo and Benin perform the dance on most social occasions. Although this historic origin can be seen today in the rich Yoruba costume worn by many performing groups, the Ewe have significantly transformed this stylized dance by introducing some typical Ewe dance movements, songs, and drum motives.

Gota: Gota is a traditional Ewe/Fon social music and dance. Originally performed in Benin for their war gods, Gota is now performed as a recreational music and dance by the Southern Ewe of Ghana, Togo, and Benin in West Africa.

Gyle (xylophone) and Atenteben (bamboo flute) piece from Ghana (gandayina, zombe nyereyie, kalana,etc.). Gyle is one of the principal traditional musical instruments among the Lobi and other ethnic groups in Northern Ghana. Atenteben is originally a traditional musical instrument of the Kwahu (Akan) of Ghana which was later upgraded and first popularized by Dr E. Amu.

Ilu Ibeji and Ilu Dada: These are traditional Yoruba musical types that are associated with twins and other rites for children. Ilu Ibeji is the drumming that accompanies some traditional rites for twins and their parents. Ilu Dada is the musical performance that accompanies the ritual associated with the first hair cut of a child that was born with matted hair among the Yoruba of Nigeria.

Jera: Jera was originally a religious music and dance of the Kparibas in Dagbon, Northern Ghana. It was performed before and after hunting expeditions but now performed at most social occasions.

Kinatsu: Kinatsu is a traditional music and dance of the Konkonba of Northern Ghana. Although it was originally a warriors/hunters musical type, it now functions as a harvest dance and performed during festivals and other social occasions.

Kpanlongo: Kpanlongo is an offshoot of older Ga musical types including Gome and Kolomashie. It emerged during Ghana's independence struggles in the 1950s among the Ga of Ghana and often associated with the youth.

Kpatsa: Kpatsa is a dance used in puberty rite and rituals of the Dangme of Ghana. Originally it is thought to have first been performed by dwarfs. Today, Kpatsa is the principal traditional entertainment music and dance among the Dangme and the Ga of Southern Ghana, in West Africa.

Kundum: Kundum is a music and dance of the Nzema and Ahanta peoples of Ghana. The dance takes its name from their local harvest festival and is performed as part of the annual Kundum festival and also on all social occasions in Ghana.

Liandja: Liandja is a traditional music associated with the Lindja epic of the Mongo of Congo, in Central Africa. It depicts the creation of the many ethnic groups of Congo including the Mongo and how they came to be, as well as the history of Lindja, who was considered the greatest man to exist among the Mongo.

Mapasa: Mapasa is an Ekonda and Mongo traditional music and dance associated with the birth, ritual, and celebration of twins. In many African societies, specific names are given to twins when they are born. Among the Ekonda and Mongo people of Congo, Mboyo, Mpia, and Boketshu are celebrated with Mapasa.

Mbende: Mbende is a traditional music and dance of the Zezuru of Western Mashobaland of Zimbabwe, South Africa. It was originally associated with the marriage ceremony of Zezuru princesses. Mbende is now performed by all men and women of marrying age.

M'tshiezo: M'tshiezo is a ceremonial and recreational music and dance from Katanga province of Congo. It is performed in series of different dances including Luba-Kat, Tshokwe, and Lunda in which young boys and girls organize in groups, tease, and compete against each other.

Mutwashi: Mutwashi is a social musical type among the Luba people of Southern Congo, Northern Angola, and Zambia. Originally used to celebrate and honor traditional dignitaries, today, the Luba people perform Mutwashi as a recreational music during social occasions.

Nagla: Nagla is a traditional music and dance of the Kasena Nankeni of Upper East Region of Ghana. In the olden days, it was performed during funerals, but now, it is performed on most social occasions.

Sanga: Sanga is a recreational music and dance of the Ashanti of Ghana. Musical instruments used in Sanga and the rhythms commonly played suggest a Northern Ghana (specifically, Dagbamba) musical origin or influence. It is flirtatious, lively and often associated with the youth.

Sikyi: Sikyi Among the Ashanti of Central Ghana, Sikyi is one of the popular recreational music and dance of the youth. Its origin is traced back to the 1920s. It became popular during Ghana's Independence in the late 1950s. It is a dance in which the youth express themselves usually during social occasions.

Sunu: Sunu is a traditional ceremonial music of the Malinke of Guinea and Mali of West Africa. Often used as a piece to welcome people, Sunu is performed during traditional festivals including Ramadan, Tabaseki, weddings and other social occasions.
Takai: Takai is a traditional royal music and dance of the Dagbamba of Northern Ghana. It is associated with kings, chiefs, and princes. Takai is usually performed during festivals such as the annual Damba festival, political and social occasions. Takai is traditionally a male dance.

Uni-Versity is a piece that explores the unity and diversity in African arts. From the shape, make, and symbols on the various instruments to the rhythms and sounds they produce, African musical instruments illustrate the unity and diversity in African cultures. J.S. Kofi Gbolonyo explores some of the rhythmic similarities from five different ethnic groups in West Africa in a piece he calls Uni-Versity.

Walolo: Walolo is a ceremonial music and dance originally performed during the coronation of kings among the Lunda of Congo, Angola and Zambia. Walolo is also associated with other Lunda royal activities and performed during political rallies.

Walli is a West African work dance. It is performed in two sections, Koukou and Triba. Koukou is a work dance for Malinke youth from the Guinean highlands, and Triba is a harvest dance among the Landouma of mid-Guinea.

Yoka Mbonda: Yoka Mboda is a drumming piece use to celebrate the youth of Kinshasa, Congo and was most often used by the youth during funerals. It reminds the adults that the youth have a voice.

In addition to traditional pieces, the ensemble performs Neo-Traditional, Contemporary African Art Compositions, and African Popular Music. African art compositions include choral works and pieces for solo voice, piano, flute, xylophone and other African traditional and Western instruments. The ensemble performs works by composers such as Ephraim Amu, Kwabena Nketia, Akin Euba, and Laz Ekwueme. These works include "Samansuo," "Sankudwom," "Omo Laso," and "Ote Nkwu." The ensemble also features African popular musical genres including West African Highlife and Central African Suokuos.

List of Past Directors

Dr. Willie O. Anku: Founder and First Director: 1983--July, 1988

Damien Pwono: Aug., 1988--Dec., 1990

Anicet Mundundu: Jan., 1991--Dec., 1996

Sylvia Nanyonga-Tamusuza: Jan., 1997--Dec., 1999

Prof. Akin Euba: Jan., 2000--July, 2000

Sylvia Nanyonga-Tamusuza: Aug., 2000--April, 2001

Dr. Paschal Yao Younge: May, 2001--Dec., 2002

Anicet Mundundu: Jan. 2003--April, 2005

J. S. Kofi Gbolonyo: May, 2005--Present


1. CD:

a) Spring 2006 Concert: Azaa Loo! A Unique African Cultural Experience

Through Music and Dance. Directed and produced by J.S. Kofi Gbolonyo.

April 22, 2006

2. DVD:

a) Fall 2005 Concert: A Festival of African Music and Dance. Directed and

produced by J.S. Kofi Gbolonyo. Dec., 10, 2006

b) Spring 2006 Concert: Azaa Loo! A Unique African Cultural Experience

Through Music and Dance. Directed and produced by J.S. Kofi Gbolonyo.

April 22, 2006

3. T-Shirts:

a) "University of Pittsburgh African Drumming Ensemble," Fall, 2005

b) "Pitt African Ensemble: Dance to the Rhythm of Your Heart," Spring, 2006

Notes Prepared By:

J. S. Kofi Gbolonyo, (the Director)

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