Fundamentals: West African drum, dance & culture

Last term we had a series of Zoom sessions exploring West African culture in its depth and variety. Recordings of all classes are now available for purchase individually or as a package of 5.

Class details

a. Internalising rhythm

Internalising rhythm and body percussion with Simon Lewis. Learn a few simple techniques to open yourself up to understanding off-beat, pulse and groove.

Second half, practising fundamental dance movements with Mitzi.

b. African earrings

Making African earrings with Amanda Diamond. Amanda says ‘One of the things I love working in Africa is the inventive use of recycled materials. So look around your home before you jump online and buy these materials!’

You’ll need:
1. Needle big enough for thread no 1
2. Scissors
3. Earring hooks/rings
4. Thread no 1. This could be raffia, wool, crochet cotton, embroidery thread, garden string, gift wrap sting
5. Thread no 2. This could be paper/natural raffia, wool, strips of fabric 2cm wide, any rope/cord of about 3mm wide.

c. Yoga

Yoga for drummers and dancers with Kat Cacavas.
A class specially designed with dancing and drumming bodies in mind. Targeting specific parts of the body that need extra love and attention, this session involved a combination of breath work, mindful movement and meditation.

d. Ghanaian dance

On 28th August dancer and percussionist Julius Sackey taught us about the different ethnic groups in Ghana and the historical background behind some of the traditional rhythms and dances.

e. Congolese dance

On 21st August Zawadi Rashidi taught us some Congolese dance moves.

Zawa was born in Uvira, Congo Kinshasa. She came to Australia in 2013 and now lives in Mount Gambier. Zawa was born with a passion for dance and learnt by copying her peers when dancing on the street. She then danced as part of a troupe which participated in local competitions. Zawa teaches traditional Congolese dance and African hip-hop.

f. Singing with Mohamed Camara

On 14th August we had a West African singing class with Mohamed Camara (Guinea). Song is a very important feature of West African music.

Second half – African dance basics with Mitzi.

g. Dance solos

On 7th August Mitzi ran a session about dance solos. Ideas to explore, making your solo fit with the music and some default phrases for when your mind goes blank!

h. Exploring time signatures

On 31st July Simon Lewis explored time signatures and what they mean in relation to West African percussion – 4/4, 6/8 and 9/8 timing.

Second half of session: African dance basics with focus on time signatures.

i. Balafon with Bassidi Koné

On 24th July we had special guest Bassidi Koné Zooming in. Bassidi is a  renowned Malian djembe fola and balafonist. He discussed his musical history and played his balafon (African xylophone) for us.

Second half of session: African dance basics

j. Ghanaian cooking

On 17th July Kwei Kwei Clottey took a Ghanaian cooking class! He talked about all the interesting cuisine from his native country (including fufu, kenkey and fermented meal) taught us how to make groundnut (peanut) soup with rice balls and Kantomire stew (spinach) w eggs.

k. Drum ensemble dynamics

On 26th June Simon Lewis discussed the dynamics of the drum ensemble. He outlined the relationship between the three dununs and djembes, bells and accessory instruments and how they affect the dance.

l. Kora with Amadou Suso

On 19th June we had special guest Amadou Suso join us. Amadou is a griot (Jali) from Gambia. He discussed his family background and the role of the Jali in west African tradition. Amadou also played his Kora (21-string west African harp).

m. Instruments of West Africa

On 12th June we learnt about the instruments of West Africa with Simon Lewis. Simon explains the craftmanship & materials that go into these beautiful instruments. Second half – dance basics with Mitzi.

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