Monday, Jul 15, 2019

Partly Cloudy, 89 °F

Left to right: Prof. Zelma Badu-Younge Juannie Williams Megan Tedrick (Preston) Brittany Brunty Dr. Jennifer Petrie Ruby Chen Prof. Paschal Yao Younge

OHIO professors Dr Younge amd Dr. Badu-Younge and their student and alumna dancers. From left to right: Prof. Zelma Badu-Younge Juannie Williams Megan Tedrick (Preston) Brittany Brunty Dr. Jennifer Petrie Ruby Chen Prof. Paschal Yao Younge

Photographer: Nii-Tete Yartey

All of the Aza Celebration performers gathered onstage at the finale to receive warm applause.

All of the Aza Celebration performers gathered onstage at the finale to receive warm applause.

Photographer: James Younge

The finale at the 2016 Aza Celebration

The finale performance is an example of the beautiful costumes made specifically for each performance

Photo courtesy of: Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge and Dr. Paschal Yao Younge

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OHIO contingent takes Ghana by storm dancing and playing instruments at AZÃ 2016

A group of 10 Ohio University students, alumni and faculty represented the University in mid-November during the second-annual AZÃ Celebration, a contemporary music and dance concert and symposium at the National Theater in Accra, Ghana.

With an audience of several Ambassadors, traditional rulers and art fans from around the world, AZÃ organizers, The National Theatre of Ghana, The National Dance Company of Ghana, The National Symphony Orchestra of Ghana, and OHIO Professors Dr. Zelma Badu-Younge and Dr. Paschal Yao Younge reveled in representing the University before an international crowd. 

“We want to collaborate and engage and let everyone know what Ohio University has to offer with African arts,” said Dr. Younge, a professor of music education and co-director of the Ohio University African Ensemble.

Showcasing Ohio University was one of the reasons for planning the annual music and dance symposium and concert, Dr. Younge explained. “Why we’re doing this project in particular is – Number one: You want people to realize Ohio University has more to offer than Halloween and parties. Number two: Global education is very important at OHIO. Number three: Diversity is very important for Ohio University. For us in the arts, the main way we can showcase Ohio University having those three pillars is to engage countries in our travels.”

Performers from Ghana’s National Dance Company and the National Symphony Orchestra joined speakers, dancers and musicians from around the world, including the United States, Canada and Azerbaijan to premiere six original music and dance pieces created by and Prof. Paschal Yao Younge and Prof. Zelma Badu-Younge. A few of their pieces will have their American premiere during the World Music and Dance Concert at Ohio University on March 31, 2017.

“This whole concept is a sophisticated approach to interacting and engaging,” said Dr. Badu-Younge, Professor of Dance at OHIO. “There are so many different levels. You’re bringing several different cultures together and how we all work together to create something. I think the audience sees the end results of what we’ve done, and it’s inspiring.”

The American Embassy in Ghana decided to sponsor this year’s celebration after experiencing the crowd’s enthusiasm at last year’s event. Last year’s symposium and concert was entitled “Diema.”

“Diema, a Dagbamba term, means a festival of music and dance. We chose this term because there is no word for music in any Ghanaian language,” explained Dr. Younge. “We attempt to bring all of the traditional terms and concepts that they use when they perform. In the northern part of Ghana, they say, ‘We are going to Diema,’ which means, they are going to a celebration that will involve drumming, dancing, poetry and art. It’s everything. When you come to the southern part of Ghana among the Ewes, they will say ‘Aza,’ which means, a festival, the theme for this year’s project. When you go to a festival, you will see everything.”

The educational symposium portion of AZÃ focused on the theme “The Arts and Artists in Contemporary Ghana.” Ohio University student, Ruby Chen presented a session on music therapy during the symposium.

Much of the education occurred outside of the symposium for participating OHIO students and alumna when they interacted with a new country or artists from other cultures.

“All the Ohio University Students and Alumna who participated in Aza, paid for their own tickets. That’s how they felt about it,” said Dr. Badu-Younge. “There’s something there – I don’t know if it is the food, the people or the water. Ghana is especially wonderful because the people are so giving. We know that these performers at the theater do not make a lot of money. Some of them - what we make in a day may be the salary they make in a month. At the end, they tightened their belts and gave everyone gifts just to show their love.”

Beyond learning about music, dance and the arts, the couple wanted to make sure that their students understood what Ghana was really like and to participate in the donation of books and educational supplies to needy students and instruments and music accessories to local musicians.

The OHIO students, alumni and faculty who traveled to the AZÃ celebration expressed their appreciation for the support that they received from President Roderick J. McDavis, the College of Fine Arts, Multicultural Programs, Division of Dance, School of Music and the Center for Global Opportunities while planning and attending this year’s event.

Each of the participants is looking forward to sharing their experiences in Ghana with the campus community and planning for next year’s festival and symposium.

“That’s what we’re teaching our alums and students -- What you do has an effect on the world,” said Dr. Badu-Younge. “What you’re wasting may be something that could save someone’s life or help their future. What we’re trying to do is take that culture we’re teaching in the classroom and bring it to life and have them interact with it. It’s one thing just reading about it, but if you’ve never traveled anywhere, you’re not really going to have the concept of what’s actually happening.”