Volume 80 : Issue 27
June 4
2007
West African Drumming Ensemble drums up excitement
By Jake Williky
The Siskiyou

Thomas Seymat/The Siskiyou
Members of the West African Cultural Drumming Ensemble play their jembe drums during the fantastic performance last Friday.

As traditional West African drumming and dance flowed through the ears and eyes of audience members, the West African cultural drumming ensemble gave an eclectic performance last Friday in the Music Recital Hall.

About 75 audience members witnessed the first-ever ensemble performance on campus which included three scenes of music. The first was the music and dance of West Africa. It comprised of two acts: the dundunba, the yankadi. As five drummers and three dancers including Music Professor Ryan M. Camara and master drummer M. Lamine Dibo Camara walked out on stage in traditional African clothing, they started the show with the dundunba, the �Dance of the Strong Men.� This dance derives from the Malinke group in the Hamana region of Guinea. The drummers played fast and incredible rhythms, and the dancers flailed their arms while spinning in circles.

The second act, Yankadi, was the �Dance of Seduction,� which originated from the coastal region of Guinea. The dance is supposed to be performed under a full moon. As the seducing dance flowed throughout the hall, one of the dancers performed the �yole,� the traditional mask dance played during village and wedding celebrations. The dance derives from the Temne group in Sierra Leone. The oversized mask was painted white with red lips and large, colorful eyes. A red and yellow hat was placed on top of the head to make the person seem taller. As this masked dancer paraded around the floor, the other dancers twirled around her as if to honor her.

After the first scene got the audience jazzed, Camara gave a brief introduction. He told the audience that the class has met eight times this term with incredible progression from all his students. He expressed that the music in and around the country of Guinea is revered and traditional. He said it is important to the tribes in Guinea because it creates a cultural unity between all the tribe members.

After the brief talk, he got the crowd involved by yelling out, �Wasa, Wasa.� After this was said, the crowd simultaneously yelled back �Way.�

The second scene was titled, �Learning African Music in the West� which involved Camara�s class. There were 15 ensemble members, 12 on hand drums and 3 playing drums with sticks. Before the ensemble started, Camara yelled beats out to the audience in his class in which the class repeated on their drums. He did this because of the difficulty African drumming is in the Western world and how we used more oral learning techniques rather than other styles. After a few beats, the ensemble pushed down their music stands and started drumming like crazy.

After the ensemble finished, the first group of drummers and dancers came out again to play another traditional dance with a mask called �Zouli.� This mask honors women of the Gouro ethnic in Cote d�Ivoire. It is used at many various occasions but can only be worn by men. This dance is complicated and unique because of the rhythmic patterns played on the drums. The patterns, called �breaks,� are played differently within every tribe. The group played seven breaks, which was one of the first times it�s ever been done in a U.S. performance.

�I really enjoyed the performance because the drummers were doing fast and wild beats,� said senior Matt Rettke. �The variety of styles and dances being played were very entertaining.�

After a short intermission, the ensemble came back for the third scene, �The Music and Dance of the Baga.�

The Baga is an ethnic group located in northwestern Guinea, who are known for their cultural arts.

The scene started with the wearing of a traditional mask called a �Sorsornet,� which is the protector of the Baga villages. The mask and dance performed by Kaya Skye and Angela Parkinson supports the women drummers of the Baga culture.

The next part of this act was the tiriba, a rhythm played by the Baga group for visitors. The master drummer portrayed his expertise of the style with a upbeat solo performance.

The last dance of the performance included the Kakilambe, a mask which is both feared and revered by the Baga group. It is said to have supernatural powers which protects the tribes and is only seen once a year. The mask is garnered with ropes which represent each family in the village. The mask performs rituals during the dance that help the village during droughts and describes a sacrifice for village members.

For more drumming shows and experience, there will be a drum series at the Balancing Act Studio with master drummer Dibo Camara on Tuesday night starting June 12. Upcoming recital performances include �Ballet Mecanique� on Monday at 8 p.m., senior Kevin Conness with percussion on Wednesday June 6 at 8 p.m., SOU Symphonic Band concert on Thursday, June 7 at 8 p.m. and the SOU Concert Choir on Sunday, June 10 at 3 p.m.