Our Ghana study abroad participants are always an eclectic bunch. As proof, look no further than program alum Eric Busse, currently starring in VH1′s new reality show Off Pitch, which chronicles the Grand River Singers (GRS) of La Crosse, Wisconsin. According to Founder and Artistic Director Rob Jones, GRS is the only all-adult, Glee-inspired community show choir in the U.S.
Today on the blog we are pleased to feature the second in a two-part guest post from Elizabeth Green, a music educator in New York City and participant on the summer 2012 ThisWorldMusic Study in Ghana program.
“You’re so lucky you teach music! The kids love music!”
So said a colleague one day as he dropped some students off for my Music Therapy class.
Me? Lucky? I’m lucky I remembered my turkey sandwich for lunch! Wait…they truly love music? Probably. Did they love my Music Class? Probably not.
I certainly make an effort to get them to love my class. I’m energetic. I make them laugh. I feel I can relate well to strugglers as well as smarty-pants in the classroom. Most of all, I love music and I love working with kids. Continue reading →
Just wrapped up a weeklong artist residency for Young Audiences at Lincoln Elementary School in Melrose, Mass., titled “Sounds of the Rainforest.” It was a great week, though these kids were so knowledgeable about the rainforest that at times it felt like they were teaching me!
For example, did you know that howler monkeys are the loudest animals on the planet aside from blue whales? Or that only 2% of the sunlight that shines on the rainforest makes it all the way down to the forest floor?
To learn more, and to get ideas for an interdisciplinary, arts-integrated rainforest unit of your own, take a look below at the detailed program notes that we put together for our final assembly “informance.” Continue reading →
The winter 2013 session of ThisWorldMusic’s Ghana Study Abroad program just concluded! Our groups are always eclectic mixes of musicians, dancers and educators from around the world, and this past trip was no different.
We’ll have more on the most recent crop of participants in an upcoming post, but today we’re featuring a participant from the 2012 winter study abroad program: drummer, bandleader and NYU music student Miles Arntzen. In addition to his academic obligations, Miles manages to find time to hold down the drum chair for a number of high-profile New York City afrobeat and afro-rock groups, including Superhuman Happiness, EMEFE (his own project) and, most notably, the Fela Kuti-inspired, globetrotting, 12-piece powerhouse that is Antibalas. (Both EMEFE and Antibalas made the Top 15 Afrobeat Albums of 2012.)
After establishing itself as the preeminent U.S.-based afrobeat band, Antibalas gained wider exposure as the house band for the Broadway smash FELA! Based in Brooklyn, they recently released their fifth full-length album on Daptone Records and have been touring since the fall to promote it.
Here they are performing their hit “Dirty Money” last night on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live…with Miles on drums!
Today on the ThisWorldMusic blog we are pleased to feature the first in a two-part guest post from Elizabeth Green, a music educator in New York City and participant on the summer 2012 ThisWorldMusic Study in Ghana program.
Picture it. 2 p.m, 6th grade band rehearsal, a small northeastern U.S. town. I am lost in enjoyment among the other young instrumentalists as we all try to out-play the oboe section, which is wowing everyone with their delicate rendition of “All-Play! #56.”
This was the time of day to which I looked forward the most. I was convinced that instrumental music was my future, and I excitedly mapped out the rest of my career daily during my next period class. What a wonderful career it would be! I would become a beloved band teacher, with multiple ensembles filled with a diverse bunch of eager students. They would choose to come before school for marching band practice every day and stay late to practice their instruments. I would have my own office that would hold multiple awards given for superior performances by my ensembles at world-renowned music festivals. Continue reading →
Educators learning a traditional children’s rock passing game in the village of Kopeyia, Ghana.
“Holo holo holo holo, gbe sia, bne nono…” The voices of my second grade general music students sing in Ewe as the students hold the garden rocks, tracing circles on the floor. “Ala, sariki babu. Ala sariki babu.” Each student excitedly picks up his or her rock and, moving to the beat, passes the rock to the student to his or her right as they sing the phrase “Ala sariki babu” over and over. While students eagerly wait for the student next to them to pass the rock, one student inevitably ends up with multiple rocks, laughter ensues and the game starts again! This is a learning opportunity to practice singing skills, reinforce steady beat, learn about tempo, and introduce music of world cultures. Continue reading →
Thanks to our amazing participants for so many5-star reviews, as well as to our partners, without whom this award wouldn’t have been possible: The UMass Amherst International Programs Office and UMass Department of Music & Dance, the Dagbe Cultural Institute and Arts Centre in Kopeyia, Ghana, and the National Dance Company in Accra, Ghana.
The African American style of dance known as krumping is sweeping Liberia, West Africa.
Sometimes it seems the arc of history bends right back to where it started. Take the West African nation of Liberia. Given its longstanding ties to the United States — it was, after all, founded by freed American slaves — it should come as no surprise that Liberians are well versed in American culture. Even so, yesterday’s story on National Public Radio (NPR) about the popularity there of an American style of dance known as krumping is remarkable.
Why? To start, krumping isn’t just an American art form, it is African American. And although krumping ‘battles’ are often seen as expressions of pure aggression, the picture is more complicated. K.R.U.M.P. is in fact a bacronym for ‘Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise.’ Many of its herky-jerky movements and cold-eyed stares were inspired by the Holy Ghost Spirit possessions that are common in African American church services. And scholars have traced this distinctly animistic take on Christian worship to — you guessed it — West Africa, in particular the voodoo trance and possession traditions that originated there.
In other words, there is still no such thing as a cultural tabula rasa. Like the recent explosion of hip-hop across Africa, krumping’s popularity in Liberia shows that culture has its own inertia and destiny. What goes around comes around.
While eating lunch at the Afia Beach Hotel in the capital city of Accra this past summer, some students in our Study in Ghana group noticed a group of musicians at a nearby table. One of them had what looked like a kora, a traditional stringed instrument commonly found in Mali, Guinea, Senegal, The Gambia and other countries in West Africa. This man turned out to be none other than Adama Dembele de Zoumba, a well-known griot (master musician/vocalist/storyteller) from Burkina Faso, Ghana’s neighbor to the North.