The Nukporfe African Dance and Drumming Ensemble will perform Thursday, March 29, at the Chamber Hall.
Nukporfe to bring sounds of Ghana to campus stage
March 26, 2012Tweet
Don’t be surprised if you close your eyes and feel like you’re in Ghana at the Nukporfe African Dance and Drumming Ensemble’s performance on Thursday.
The performance, which will be held at 8 p.m. March 29, in the Anderson Center Chamber Hall, will highlight more than 100 traditional songs, and traditional dances and costumes from Ghana. Tickets are $3 and will be sold at the door.
Assistant Professor James Burns, the ensemble’s director, said the group will be “as authentic as we can be.” The group is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the music, Africana studies and theatre dance departments.
“We’re telling you a story about the culture,” Burns said. “There’s a purpose.”
“You would imagine a drum circle,” Burns said, but this performance will be more than that. “We have drumming, singing and storytelling.”
The music is multi-layered. Each layer depends on another. The dancers listen for cues from the support drums that tell them which movements to make. The lead drums have a conversation with the response drums, and the singer leads the conversation.
“Every part, everything matters,” Burns said. If one move is wrong, it may set off a chain reaction. The interdependency of the music demonstrates the collaboration of all the pieces at work.
Burns apprenticed as a drummer in a Ghanaian village for several years. When he came back to the United States, he got his doctorate in ethnomusicology. Since then, he has brought Ghanaian culture to Binghamton.
Burns said he searched to recreate the music he played in Ghana for many years, and finally had the opportunity to do so with Nukporfe.
Nukporfe is made up of students who take a one-credit drumming class. Burns said the students audition to become part of the group. The students learn the 100 traditional songs from Ghana and Togo, a country near Ghana, which make up the group’s repertoire.
Burns said the 6-year-old group improves each year, which allows it to learn new things. “We manage to keep it fresh,” he said.
Maritza Rodriguez, a junior biology major, has participated in the group since her freshman year. At first, she stood in the back row and watched. In her second semester she took beginner drum lessons and she has been “sucked in ever since.”
Burns described Rodriguez as the best drummer in the group. If Burns is absent from rehearsal, Rodriguez will take his place. Burns said she is one of several student leaders within the group.
“It’s something I’ve really found a passion for,” Rodriguez said. “I’m enjoying myself and I love doing it.”
Rodriguez continues to set aside the block of time for the drum group, despite a heavy course-load. She said she meets with the other group members outside of scheduled rehearsals as much as inside and described the group as a “big family.”
The group is diverse, both academically with students from all majors, and culturally with students from all walks of life. Burns said the group has several students from Ghana, but also has several Chinese students. He believes the group has “broken barriers.”
“We’ve created a community where we celebrate African culture,” Burns said.