While it wasn’t a typical Fourth of July celebration, it was one Miami University students were able to experience first-hand Wednesday night: a celebration of independence through Ghanaian song and dance.
The Bernard Woma Trio performed in concert at Miami’s Hall Auditorium for the event, “A Celebration of 50 Years of Ghanaian Independence Through Music,” sponsored by the black world studies program and the Center for American and World Cultures (CAWC). The event, which included music, singing, and traditional African dances, was held to celebrate Ghana’s 50th anniversary in gaining its independence from Britain in March 1957.
Woma, one of Ghana’s most famous musicians, has performed as a master drummer for the Dagara Cultural Troupe and even opened his own school, the Dagara Music Center. At the school Woma teaches traditional African music and instruments such as the gyil, a xylophone played by the Dagara people in Ghana. He has traveled throughout both Ghana and the U.S. teaching and performing with the trio-which includes Kofi Ameyaw, a percussionist and native of Ghana, and Mark Allen Stone, a former student of Woma’s and the director of the African Ensemble and Steel Band at Oakland University.
“It was fitting that we find a Ghanaian musician who was as well known globally and is so highly recommended,” said Cyril Daddieh, director of the black world studies program and a professor in political science. “This is a sampling of Ghanaian traditional music that (Woma) is playing, and that also makes it significant when you’re celebrating Ghana to get someone who can play various musical traditions from across the country.”
The group entertained a crowd of approximately 200 people with their energetic instrumental performances from the various regions of Ghana, and singing in their native language. The performance also included a solo by Woma titled, “I’m Addicted to the Xylophone,” as well as Ghanaian dancers performing dances onstage.
“I’ve never listened to African music before so it was really a nice exposure,” said first-year Kathryn Braun. “The dancing was amazing. I didn’t know people could move like that and for that long.”
The trio worked to encourage the active participation of the audience by teaching several phrases in the Dagaran native language and bringing several members up on stage to join in the dances for different songs, including “Mambo,” an original composition by Woma that incorporated Latin beats mixed with African rhythms.
But just as the U.S. Independence Day isn’t just about fireworks, so this celebration wasn’t just about music. Some students took away a different kind of message from the performance. Senior Dan Abner was impressed by the message of freedom the Woma Trio brought to the school.
“What I enjoyed most about the performance was the spirit of freedom I saw in the performers,” he said. “You could see that they had a real love of freedom. It was definitely something new to be exposed to as well. I feel like we tend to focus on European culture. African culture isn’t something you’re exposed to much in the West or isn’t paid much attention to, so it was a privilege to be able to experience that first-hand tonight.”