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This weekend’s African Cultural Festival expresses ethnic music and dance

This weekend’s African Cultural Festival expresses ethnic music and dance

April 04
08:39 2014

Morgan Gentry // Intern Writer

The 17th-annual African Cultural Festival will embody the traditional ethnic music and dance of West Ghana, Afro-Cuban and Southern Indian cultures. The UNT-student based recital is at 8 p.m. April 5 in Voertman Hall and will demonstrate stylized war music and dance that soothed these cultures through troubling times.

“I want people to look at the rhythm as a language [and] how the drums talk,” said percussion professor Gideon Foli Alorwoyie, an artistic director and chief master drummer for the festival.

He said he wants the audience to understand how drums are used as a language that speaks to the dancers. Three UNT ensembles and two West African troupes will take center stage to show the connection.

This year, Gideon said there will be a special guest from West Ghana, the introduction of acrobatics in the festival and performances from the Afrikania Cultural Troupe and Wulomei Cultural Troupe. The UNT African Percussion Ensemble, Advanced Afro-Cuban Ensemble, South Indian Cross-Cultural Ensemble and Alorwoyie’s Music and Movement class will also perform.

Alorwoyie will also be partaking in the acrobatics, along with playing five different drums throughout the recital.

Music senior Matt Bennett will be a drummer in the show and warns that it will be loud. But, he said to “keep your eyes and ears open to everything that is going on [and to] keep your mind open to something new.”

Bennett has participated in the festival for several years and will be playing the support drums, lead drums and bells in the African Percussion Ensemble, as well as a solo drum and support drum in the Advanced Afro-Cuban Ensemble.

“It brings cultural awareness and cultural enrichment that we don’t get.” Bennett said. “You don’t get that experience [of seeing] people express their culture in that way.”

Bennett’s time with Alorwoyie and Jose Aponte, the Afro-Cuban Ensemble director and music professor, validates the message the two professors are trying to send.

“Its all about our students and their preparation for different concerts through this semester,” Aponte said. “How they absorb the Afro-centric culture and how they express it musically.”

Participating in the festival since he was a graduate student in the College of Music, Aponte believes that the festival has grown stronger and nationally recognized.

“He’s [Alorwoyie] done a great job at putting his program on the national and international map,” Aponte said. “African musical culture has affected directly every corner of the new world but also keeps it up internationally to this day.”

Aponte said the festival should be considered something joyful to make you want to stand up and dance. He said his participation is a reflection of that influence in Latin America and the afro-centric influence that is evident in Cuban and Caribbean culture.

Overall, the message to his students and the audience is that music makes peace, Alorwoyie said.

“I want them to see how African music and dance works. It’s just like bringing a family together,” he said. “In my ensembles, they all connect. These classes have made them more open and the program keeps the students mindful of other cultures.”

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