Offering a high-quality arts education program comes with the honor exposing students to different musical genres, like Ewe music.
Why teach African Drumming in LA? There are so many traditional music genres in the US that we could teach, right? At BAF, we use music and dance to introduce children to global sounds and movements. We develop our curriculum around world music offerings so that students can learn about other cultures and discover similarities and differences through music.
Adding African Drumming to the program made it more inclusive, especially for those children whose families might come from countries that enjoy Ewe music and have grown up listening to it. Not only can it be a way to connect them with their heritage, but also to have the chance to tell classmates about their families’ culture.
What makes African drumming even more enchanting, specifically Ewe music, is the community aspect that makes it ideal for classrooms. Ewe music requires a group of drummers, singers, and dancers. Typically, an ensemble would have one Atsimevu, one Sogo, one Kidi, one Kagan, one Gankogui, and as many Axatses as needed. If we translate that into a classroom, all students will be involved as a group of musicians creating music together! Students learn that all parts are important and no one part is better than the others.
Playing the drums is a bit easier for students than the piano or the guitar. However, this doesn’t mean that mastering African Drumming is easy. Luckily, BAF has expert teachers in African drumming like Teacher Cole and Teacher Ben who know how to manage the complexity of Ewe music and teach it to young children. Both Cole and Ben who studied under Master Teachers from Ghana at CalArts, including world renowned Sulley Imoro, and have earned the blessings of Teacher Sulle to pass on this incredible tradition.
“When we introduce music and movement from different cultures in our classes it helps the children see a common humanity, and quite literally feel a common beat with children living across the world,” said Radhika Fliegel, Bloom Arts Foundation Co-Founder.
The challenges of acquiring the instruments
However, teaching a not-so-common music genre at schools comes with a challenge: access to the instruments. We want to source our drums from master makers in Ghana who have been making these drums for generations. Purchasing the drums from communities in Ghana that handcraft the drums honors the creators and helps to support the villages where this music originated.
Until we can raise enough money to purchase drums from Ghana, we borrow our teachers’ instruments. However, we hope to have a full classroom set in the near future so we can provide high-quality, authentic instruments to all the African Drumming classes that we teach. Although teaching African Drumming requires an additional investment, we know it’s worth it to introduce our students to new cultures and global musical styles.