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AZA! provides international flare to Moms Weekend

Annual African dance and music concert adds culture to weekend

The Ohio University African Ensemble will present the arts of Africa through the annual AZA! dance and music concert at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 30 at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium.

"Africans express life through the arts. The concept of music is not just what you hear; it’s what you see and what you feel," said Paschal Yao Younge, associate professor in the School of Music.  "When the African people are playing their music, there is dancing, there is a song, there is poetry, there is theater, there is everything because the word music does not belong in Africa. There is no African language for music as we have it (in America)."

The concert features performances by a cross-disciplinary group of Ohio University faculty and students, under the direction of faculty members Zelma Badu-Younge, associate professor of multicultural music education, and Paschal Yao Younge, and guest artists including African dance ensemble Azaguno and special guest artist Adbul Rahaman Mohammed.

"When we talk about Africa today, it’s not just Africa but also beyond Africa. We want to expand and link it with all the black expressions outside the continent, and look at the contributions of black people to the global art forms," Younge said.

The first part of the concert focuses on the traditional values and the ritual culture of Africa, and expresses this through the art of dance.  The concert then shifts to a more modern route with more recent traditions and dances during the second half.

One of the dances, titled "Sabar," is named after a form of drumming of the Wolof of Senegal. Traditionally, sabar drumming is used in religious ceremonies; however, in modern settings, sabar is used mainly for various dance-drumming events. The sabar was used to communicate to other villages. The different rhythms correspond to phrases and could be heard for over 15 kilometers.

Another performance by the new Ohio University Pan-African Chamber Orchestra will showcase different kinds of African instruments from the idiophone to the aerophone—all which are used in African musical traditions and today.

“In this year’s concert, we are trying to explore different sounds and show that African instruments can also play in a western style orchestra,” said Younge. “We are introducing the OU African chamber orchestra, which includes all African instruments such as strings, winds, flutes and drums.”

The last piece, “Coexistence,” brings it all together by focusing on the similarities in the dance drumming styles of all the different ethnic groups throughout East and West Africa.

“For the first time, we are bringing dances from different African groups to be performed together. We want to show that though we are from different ethnic groups in Africa it’s very easy to come together,” Younge said.

Tickets are $12 for general admission, $9 for non-OHIO students and senior citizens, and free for all Ohio University students with a valid ID through Arts for Ohio.