Voice of Drums: Language of Dance at SFU Contemporary Arts

One of the best things about living at Woodward’s is having SFU Contemporary Arts in the complex. They regularly offer sensational cultural events that are free and open to the public. Yesterday afternoon, I went to see Voice of Drums: Language of Dance. Here is a blurb about it from a SFU press release:

“SFU Contemporary Arts is pleased to present a special demonstration and performance by Mr. James Acheampong, a royal carver, dancer and drummer for the Ashanti people of Ghana. As a traditional drummer Mr. Acheampong worked closely with experienced carvers but soon realized they could not always make drums that satisfied his specifications. This led him to become a drum carver, which he combined with his drumming and dancing.

Considered a national treasure, Mr. Acheampong works with the Centre for National Culture in Kumasi, Ghana.  While in Vancouver Mr. Acheampong will be working with SFU students of the Ghana Field School Program.”

The seated dancer in purple is a teaching assistant and the  two dancers in white are  third and fourth year students. I really like seeing students participating in public performances.

The above video features the two drummers alternating in song and drum. One person sings a line and the other uses the drum to mimic the intonation and rhythm of the words.

Being the keener that I am, I sat in the front row.  I love watching people dance right before my eyes.

The above video made my heart race! Watch and listen to the drum beats escalate in speed.

There was also an interactive component to the performance. The audience had a chance to learn some Ashanti dance moves.

The audience was invited to play the drums!  Did you know that there is a field school to Ghana through SFU Contemporary Arts? Currently, it is only offered to SFU students but they are developing a program that will be open to the public. I am all over that so I signed up for more info. I want to go to Ghana and learn how to drum, to make drums, and above all — to dance !!!

Here is a video of  SFU Contemporary Arts Ghana Field School from 2009:

The above are back up drumsticks. As you can imagine, drumsticks break regularly from intense beating. In one of the videos, a broken stick flies out of the hand of a drummer in mid performance. He just kept smiling and reached for another. No biggie.

Gorgeous handmade drums.

People were still asking questions and engaging with the instruments when I left.

Too bad J. was bogged down by work and couldn’t see the performance with me. When I went home:

J: How was it?

Z: It was good. I learned some African dance moves.

J. What do you mean?

Z: [Does some African dance moves]

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