West African drumming and dance concert shares culture, inspires audience participation
November 18, 2010
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On Nov. 10, Dana Auditorium became a makeshift dance floor after a drumming concert and dance performance transformed into an interactive cultural celebration.
Alongside his African drumming class, Part-time Lecturer in Music Atiba Rorie lit up the stage with an arsenal of West African drumming techniques. Rorie animated the audience by inviting them to clap, sing, and dance along with the music. Only minutes into the performance, an initially shy audience could be seen shouting along with the rhythm of the drums.
“It was an enriching experience, plus it was lots of fun,” said senior Kacey Pelletier. “I wish Guilford did more (events) like this.”
Rorie noted during the concert that many of the students did not have any experience with a musical instrument prior to their African drumming lessons. Although Rorie took the lead, the students laid down beats with ease and precision. Drummers kept the rhythm going as Rorie coaxed the audience to contribute to the music-making.
Following the student performance was a demonstration by the Elikem African Dance Company, an entertainment troupe based out of Durham with a focus on West African music and dance tradition. The second act propelled audience participation to the next level as company members encouraged onlookers to join them on the stage.
“It was like an ultimate dance-off,” said first-year Lyes Benarbane, a student who joined the stage performers as they danced. “I liked the overall freedom (of the event).”
Company members instructed audience participants to follow along with Kpanlogo dance moves — a type of African dance originating from Ghana. Freestyle dancing abounded towards the end of the event. Brave volunteers took the center-stage as they danced to an exciting mixture of West African drums and modern acoustic guitar.
Elikem African Dance Company owner and dancer Daniel Appah emphasized the role of music in helping others understand African culture.
“Music and dance is part of us,” said Appah. “We can’t live without it.”
Although not all audience members made a stage debut, many of them still felt compelled to dance along either in the aisles or between the seating rows. Apprehension and embarrassment melted away under the encouraging supervision of Rorie and the company’s performers.
“Music and dance heals people,” said Rorie. “You can see it in the audience, they’re all happy.”
Rorie was right. Stress melted away as the students interacted with the drumming and dance routines, and many students left with a smile on their face. The engagement of the audience implied that the event was successful not only in showcasing the effort of Rorie’s drumming class, but also in communicating the cultural value behind West African music and dance.
“I’m so proud to be out demonstrating my culture,” said Appah. “Some people watch the Discovery Channel, but that’s really just fiction. I’m here showing our culture with music.”
Those who attended stressed the benefit of multicultural events on Guilford’s campus.
“Events like these help us realize there are other cultures out there,” said Benarband. “In the United States, we’re way too consumed with our Western values.”
Warm lights and festive colors helped contribute to the event’s celebratory atmosphere. The concert did not attract a full auditorium, but the sound and energy of the crowd was enough to make up for the modest turn-out.
“I feel like showcasing other cultures helps to showcase America,” said Rorie. “It’s been said by many, but America is a melting pot of all these cultures.”