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Crane School of Music Hosts Concert by West African Drum and Dance Ensemble

11.28.17
photo of african drum and dance
The West African Drum & Dance Ensemble performs on stage during a concert last year at Sara M. Snell Music Theater.

SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music will host a concert featuring the Crane West African Drum and Dance Ensemble on Friday, Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m. in the Sara M. Snell Music Theater.

The Crane West African Ensemble will be joined by guest master drummer Martin Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng, an expert Ghanaian musician who brings a high level of musical mastery and rhythmic virtuosity to any performance.

The event will be lively and upbeat, with opportunities for the audience to participate and dance with the group at the end. This is a great event for people of all ages, including families with young children. The concert is free, and the public is invited to attend.

The concert will open with “Ayelevi,” a song in the call and response form in the Ewe language, followed by “Kwadzo Ku,” an agbadza war dance-drumming funeral song for a man who has died.

The ensemble will present Atumpan drumming and poetry, in which a pair of low- and high-pitched drums are played for dancing or to mimic the sounds of speech in the Akan language. This will be followed by a performance of Kpatsa, the music and dance of the Ga-Adangme ethnic group of southern coastal Ghana, which is used at funerals, festivals and as a coming-of-age song for girls. In the second dance-drumming piece of the evening, the ensemble will present “Gahu,” an Egun dance that is usually played at special events like religious and harvest festivals or the installation of a chief.

Music education major Joseph Janover will then take to the stage to perform kpanlogo melodies on the marimba, and then improvise around them. The concert will close with the last dance-drumming piece, “Kpanlogo,” a type of Ga recreational music from the capital region of Accra in Ghana. The music first developed during the 1950s independence movements and is used at funerals, festivals and parties.

About the performers:

The Crane West African Drum and Dance Ensemble performs music from Ghana, Togo and neighboring countries of West Africa. The ensemble strives to perform and represent West African traditional music in the most accurate way possible. Students learn the material through an oral method, rather than through written notation or scores. The group is an inclusive community open to all students at SUNY Potsdam, regardless of musical background or ability, and the students in the group reflect a diversity of backgrounds and majors.  

Martin Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng has worked with the ensemble since its start in Spring 2013. He is a well-renowned drummer, composer, dancer and educator originally from Ghana, who has worked internationally for the past 30 years. He began drumming at the age of five, and by seventeen he was appointed Royal Court Drummer to the high chief of the Aburi-Akuapim region of the Eastern Region of Ghana. He was a member of Ghana's National Arts Council Folkloric Company. Obeng has continued to perform traditional music of West Africa, in addition to highlife, jazz, Latin music, reggae and different fusions of these styles. Obeng teaches at Brown University, and has shared the stage with such luminaries as Max Roach, Roy Hargrove, Randy Weston, Anthony Braxton, Gideon Alorwoyie and Obo Addy.

This concert will be broadcast live on the Crane School of Music YouTube channel at the performance time. To view the program and see other upcoming streaming performances, visit www.potsdam.edu/academics/Crane/streaming.

For more information about SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, please visit www.potsdam.edu/crane.

Founded in 1886, SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music has a long legacy of excellence in music education and performance. Life at Crane includes an incredible array of more than 300 recitals, lectures and concerts presented by faculty, students and guests each year. The Crane School of Music is the State University of New York’s only All-Steinway institution.

Media contact:

Alexandra Jacobs Wilke, Office of College Communications,
(315) 267-2918