Smile Politely

Mande Comes to Krannert Wednesday

The Krannert Center for Perfoming Arts offers a unique opportunity on Wednesday to experience a live performance of Mande percussion music. The concert, which takes place in Foellinger Great Hall, will be lead by Mande master drummer Moussa Bolokada Conde, who is currently a visiting artist at the Center for World Music through the University of Illinois’ School of Music.

Bolokada, originally from the Republic of Guinea, will be joined by fellow West African musicians from Guinea and Senegal along with the Mande Drumming Ensemble, which is comprised of students of the Center for World Music. The concert begins at 7:30 p.m.

Mande percussion concerts are quite an exciting and invigorating experience. The drummers incorporate acrobatic dance moves while laying down intricate, polyrhythmic grooves. The signature instruments in a Mande drum ensemble are the djembe and dundun. The djembe is a standing drum played with the bare hands, while the dundun is a larger, bassier drum played with a drum stick. The balafon, often described as an African xylophone, and the kora, a lute-like stringed instrument, will also be featured.

On Wednesday evening, the kora will be played by Morikeba Kouyate from Senegal, who is one of the premier kora players in West Africa. Balafon duties will be handled by Lansana Kouyaté. Even in the more prim and proper setting of the Krannert, I’m sure the Mande musicians will make you want to get up to get down.

The music students in the Mande Drumming Ensemble have been studying and preparing for this concert under the tutelage of Moussa Bolokada Conde. Previous performances of world music student ensembles from the U of I music school that I have attended, such as the Balinese gamelan orchestras, have been outstanding.

The Robert E. Brown Center for World Music, which brought Bolokada to the U of I, is a new institute of the School of Music. According to the School of Music, its mission is to “bring visiting artists in world music traditions to the University of Illinois for extended periods to teach and demonstrate their arts to the University community, area schoolchildren, and the community at large.

“The underlying premise of the Center’s work is that serious involvement in the music of other cultures will foster respect and admiration for the cultures themselves. In 2008–2009, its first full year of operation, the Center is offering Mande percussion music, Balinese gamelan, North Indian tabla and Chinese instrumental music.”

The concert is Wednesday, February 4 at 7:30 pm in the Foellinger Great Hall of the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $4 for students and $10 for non-students. The event is open to the public and is all ages.

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