Ghanaian Drum Workshop Deepens Student Understanding of Ethnomusicology
Music students, teachers, and others gathered in the orchestra room after school on Tuesday for a workshop on Ghaniana West African drumming taught by guest musician and educator Christiana Usenza. The workshop introduced many students to the polyrhythmic forms of African percussion through several bell patterns native to the West African country of Ghana.
Grier’s Music Director Mrs. Barbara Neumuller and Ms. Usenza distributed percussion instruments to students around the room, including bells called Gankogui, drums that included the Kidi, the Sogo, and the Kagan, and maraca-like instruments called Axatse. The presenter opened with a slide show presentation that included an introduction to Ghana and its geographic location in Western Africa, the common instruments of Ewe music tradition, and a succession of bell patterns.
Following Ms. Usenza’s lead, the Grier students tapped out the first bell pattern. Once they had grasped the rhythm, she introduced more complexity. Soon, the drum circle was creating a complex polyrhythm piece called "Gahu." The student’s faces reflected a combination of pleasure to be making rhythm, intense concentration as they focused, and laughter as they made mistakes.
Percussion plays an important role throughout the diverse cultures of the continent of Africa and the rhythms of Africa have certainly influenced Afro-Cuban and Afro-American musical genres from blues, to funk, and to rock. Grier students enjoyed the opportunity to deepen their understanding of world music through this experience with guest instructor Christiana Usenza.