African drum and dance ensemble to perform traditional dances from Ghana

Posted on Apr 18 2019 - 5:00am by Nancy Jackson

The Ole Miss African Drum and Dance Ensemble (OMADDE) is bringing a piece of traditional African culture to Oxford tonight at 7:30 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium.

The concert, “You Are an Eagle, Stretch Your Hands and Soar Up High!” will feature traditional West African dances and drumming and present original choreography and compositions from George Worlasi Kwasi Dor, a music professor, founder of the ensemble and master drummer from Ghana.

George Worlasi Kwasi Dor. Photo by Nancy Jackson.

During the performance, multiple traditional West African dances will borrow techniques from three different ethnic groups in Ghana. The dances from the different regions have unique stories to tell and are traditionally performed for different occasions. Lynn Wilkins, the event director, said that even though there are three different styles, they all come together into a cohesive performance.

“They are traditional in that the drums and dance work together to tell a traditional folktale,” Wilkins said.

One dance being performed by the ensemble is “Bamaaya,” a recreational dance of Dagbon of northern Ghana whose title means “the river (valley) is wet.” “Bamaaya” tells the story of a men dressing in women’s clothing to pray to the water god for rain in the midst of a drought.

“Part of the dance, you’ll see people lifting their legs and trying to avoid the collected water. It reenacts when the rain fell,” Dor said about the “Bamaaya” dance. “The dances offer stories and origins.”

OMADDE will also perform the traditional Adangme dance of southern Ghana, “Tokoe,” a dance traditionally performed when women reach puberty to celebrate womanhood, history and culture. The ensemble will also perform the traditional courtship dance, “Gahu,” from southeastern Ghana.

Performers will use authentic instruments from Ghana during the performance, but pieces composed and choreographed by Dor will also feature western instruments such as the keyboard, bass guitar and flute.

One song composed by Dor called “Let’s Move On, Let’s Zoom Ahead” was written after a meeting Dor had with Donald Cole, who retired from the Lyceum in January. Dor describes the song as a “diversity love song.”

“The moment I stepped out (of Cole’s office) this song occurred to me,” Dor said. “We need to come together as people of different races in love. With love, we shall correct ourselves because we are very very close to our destination, so let’s just zoom ahead. It’s about how people can forget and forgive and continue their journey.”

Dor added that he was inspired by perseverance and the maintenance of a strong sense of self during hard times in life.

“Having that strength and self-confidence is important but must be backed by action,” he said. “Anybody can be down, but you can pick yourself up and encourage yourself that you are an eagle. You can come up.”

Dor was recently awarded a fellowship by the Carnegie African Diaspora Fellowship Program and will travel to Nigeria in the summer to conduct field research with a small group of students.

The department of music offers African Dance and Music courses to all students. The event is free and open to all and begins at 7:30 p.m. in Nutt Auditorium.