RAG hosts African Dance Party
The annual African Dance Party at The Roxbury Arts Group promises to be an especially lively one this year, with the Bernard Woma Ensemble, joined by traditional dancers, leading the festivities on Friday, August 22 at 8 p.m. Admission is $10. The group will also offer a free children’s concert and workshop at 2 p.m. Both events will take place in the Hilt Kelly Hall on Vega Mountain Road, Roxbury.
The Bernard Woma Ensemble is led by master Ghanaian musician Bernard Woma. Bernard is joined in the group by American student Mark Allen Stone and Ghanaian Koki Ameyaw. Two dancers will join them. The group performs traditional Dagara bewaa and binne music as well as Bernard’s original compositions. They are featured on the CD Bernard Woma In Concert and perform together frequently in Ghana, Michigan, and New York City.
The Gyil is a xylophone played by the Dagara people at funerals, seasonal festivals, religious ceremonies, and recreational gatherings. It is made of tuned wooden keys suspended on a wooden frame above gourd resonators. Spider egg-sack casings are stretched over holes cut in the gourds to give the instrument its distinctive buzzing sound.
The Kuor is a hand drum made by stretching a monitor lizard skin over the opening of a large gourd. It is used to accompany Dagara xylophone music.
Bernard Woma is from the Gbaane clan of the Dagara people. He was born in the village of Hiineteng, located in Northwestern Ghana. When he was born, his hands were clenched in fists as if clutching xylophone mallets. A village elder informed Bernard’s father that this hand position indicated that Bernard was destined to become a xylophone player. His father then purchased a pair of xylophones and by the age of two Bernard was playing the gyil
Mark Stone, from Waterford, Michigan, holds degrees in percussion performance from the University of Michigan and West Virginia University. In 1992, as an exchange student from the U of M visiting the University of Ghana, he traveled throughout Ghana, West Africa, to study its rich musical traditions. While in Ghana, Mark studied the gyil extensively with Bernard Woma.
While growing up in Accra, the capital city of Ghana, Kofi Ameyaw was exposed to many styles of African music. As a teenager he joined the junior Pan-African Orchestra where he developed his skills as a xylophonist and hand drummer.