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 READ MORE →
Cocoa farmer and Divine Chocolate part owner Adwoa Asianaa. Photo Courtesy of Kim Naylor.
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Spent a most edifying evening this past Friday with my friend and colleague Anthony Douglass discussing Ewe music and history. He played me some amazing recordings he’d made years ago of his Ghanaian teacher singing traditional Ewe songs and decoding their various meanings, recordings mostly made on a series of Sunday afternoons at this man’s home. Good luck finding this stuff in a book.
And while you can probably guess that no two renditions of a given song were identical, the point here is that READ MORE →
At workshops, a lot of people ask how I got into drumming. So here goes.
Despite the misleading photo of me from 3rd grade (above), I didn’t start studying music until the ripe age of 18. True story! Growing up my folks never put pressure on me to play an instrument and I didn’t feel the urge to go beyond being a devoted listener. After making a documentary on the Berkeley High School jazz program during my senior year there, I was inspired to take up jazz piano. READ MORE →