Having heard drumming coming from Schwartz many times while walking past Usdan, I was eager to learn more about the class those sounds came from. Completely unlike any class I have experienced at Brandeis thus far, Music and Dance from Ghana was both exciting and intense. Beginning with drumming at the very start of the class, the coursework was clearly demanding. Yet, it was also evident the amount that was learned, and the freedom with which it was learned, makes this course one of the most unique at Brandeis.
This session was their final class before their performances in the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Creative Arts on Thursday, April 28. The time was spent perfecting both the drumming and the dancing that will be part of the festival. When finalizing drumming, instructor Nani Agbeli made sure that each student played an instrument they liked and were comfortable with. Later, during the dance portion of the class, he stressed the importance of making the dance one’s own. He did not simply want it to be an accumulation of memorized steps, but an embodiment of the dancer.
Students echoed this sentiment. “I really enjoy all parts of the class: I think it’s really awesome. I love the drumming, and it’s really cool to learn about a different cultural musical experience. The dancing is really fun, it’s a really good workout, and he obviously knows his stuff,” Zoe Novic stated. “He is a perfectionist, which is good in any teacher – especially a dance teacher – so he’s hard on us sometimes, but it’s all for a good cause. He makes us better in the end, and he’s fun.” The class certainly seemed engaging, with no dull moments between the drumming and the dancing.
Walker Stern agrees, saying: “It’s a really excellent class, even more so because African dance is often taught by people who are not of the culture which originates the dance they teach, and in this case that is not at all what’s going on. So, it is, I think, in many ways more difficult than it would be otherwise, because he’s a very demanding teacher, but it’s also interesting culturally and mind-expanding musically.”
Members of the class are excited about their performance later this week. Displaying both drumming and dancing they have practiced all semester, it will be their opportunity to show to Brandeis what they have learned. “It’s very engaging. I think it’s a class that everyone should take as it’s fun to do,” says Pokuaa Adu. From Ghana as well, Pokuaa was excited to take the class and is looking forward to the performance. “I’d like for people to see what we’re doing. Because I see a lot of people walk by, kind of peek in. It’ll be exciting.”
The Ghanian Music and Dance performance will occur on April 28th at 6:00 pm in the Shapiro Campus Center Atrium. Students in MUS 87, as the ensemble Fafali (“there is peace”), will perform instrumental music and dance from the Ewe tradition of West Africa, led by master drummer Nani Agbeli with special guest artist Frederick Abban. A reception with refreshments follows the performance.
NEW 4/29/2011: Read coverage about the above event in the Hoot.
MUS 87A, “Music and Dance From Ghana“, will be offered again in Fall 2011 on Thursdays from 6:30-8:50 pm. Music department signature required.