Antibalas Tops List of Best 15 Afrobeat Albums of 2012

Antibalas Afrobeat orchestra subway photo

Antibalas sporting the animal masks they wore on the cover of their 2012 self-titled Daptone Records release.

Courtesy of our friends over at The Afrobeat Blog, here’s a list of the Top 15 Afrobeat Albums of 2012. Topping the list is Brooklyn-based Antibalas, featuring drummer and ThisWorldMusic Ghana study abroad alum Miles Arntzen. READ MORE

Teaching Music in Urban Schools: One Educator’s Journey

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. READ MORE

From Africa to Chicago: A Children’s Game Teaches Music

Children's rock passing game Africa

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. READ MORE

Ghana Program Wins Top Award from Abroad101 and STA Travel

Read reviews on Abroad101 to find out why our participants give us 4.9 out of 5 stars.

We are thrilled to announce that ThisWorldMusic’s Ghana program has been named a Top Pick in the 2012 Abroad101 Study Abroad Rankings presented by STA Travel!

Thanks to our amazing participants for so many 5-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.

Thanks also to Abroad101 and STA Travel for the honor and for their role in promoting international education. The story was recently picked up by USA Today. READ MORE

Krumping in the African Diaspora — What Goes Around Comes Around

Krump dancing in Liberia West Africa

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.

Amazing Griot Singer Performs for Africa Study Abroad Group

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 READ MORE

Studying West African Dance: At a Traditional Funeral in Ghana

Getting dressed for traditional funeral in Ghana

Dance artist and summer 2012 Ghana participant Leah Moriarty getting dressed for a traditional funeral in the village of Kopeyia, Ghana.

The following guest post comes from Leah Moriarty, a dance artist and educator from New Haven, CT. She recently returned from the ThisWorldMusic/UMass summer study abroad in Ghana program.

I have spent the last ten years attempting to wrap my head and body around West African dance. It is the only aesthetic that has ever spoken to me and made my body feel at home.

I felt I could never consider myself an African dancer for two reasons: READ MORE

ZUMIX African Drumming Ensemble Rocks Fenway Park

ZUMIX African Drumming Ensemble performs at Fenway Park

Dressed in traditional African garb, the ZUMIX African Drumming Ensemble performs ‘Gahu,’ a style of music from Ghana, for the crowd gathered at Fenway Park.

Had a blast performing with the ZUMIX Youth African Drumming Ensemble at Fenway Park this past Saturday. We were invited by Northeastern University to perform as part of their annual Family Day.

ZUMIX’s unique approach to youth development is evident in its Mission: Empowered youth who use music to make strong positive change in their lives, their communities, and the world. With kids like these, is it any wonder that ZUMIX won a 2011 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House? READ MORE

Study in Africa Photo Blog: Ghana Winter 2012

Boba drum playing in Kopeyia, Ghana

Miles Arntzen (left) plays the boba drum accompanied by his instructor, Elike.

Over the years, one of the things I’ve loved most about leading the ThisWorldMusic/UMass Amherst Study in Africa program is getting to know the participants. Sure, studying African music and dance is a thrill, but it’s the people, not just the rhythms, that stick with me long after I’ve returned.

On the most recent winter study abroad trip in Ghana, West Africa, we had a seminary student from Indianapolis, Brent Walsh, who, as luck would have it, turned out to be a professional photographer. And who studies abroad in a place as visually stunning as Ghana without bringing along a camera?

Here are 5 highlights from Brent’s inspiring photos, each representing a different aspect of what it’s like to study in Africa. READ MORE

Top 10 Things to Pack for Study Abroad in Ghana

Participants on the ThisWorldMusic/UMASS summer Study in Ghana program. Pack smart, stay happy!

With the ThisWorldMusic/UMASS summer 2012 Study in Ghana program on the horizon, I thought I’d share some packing tips we give trip participants. Although a standard packing list is easy to come by, these 10 lesser known items are must haves for anyone planning to study in Ghana: READ MORE

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