West African Drum Ensemble



UNI’s West African Drum Ensemble performed in Maucker Union this week.

LEZIGA BARIKOR, Campus Life Editor | [email protected]

Fast rhythms reverberated throughout the Maucker Union this past Tuesday, Oct. 31, when the UNI West African Drum Ensemble (UNI-WADE), performed from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“It sounded really neat,” said Crystal Spencer, sophomore music major. “Kind of gave a nice vibe. Something different.”

The UNI-WADE was originally formed in the fall of 1997 and now continues as a one credit hour course offered through the UNI School of Music. It is open to people from all majors. The class meets at 8 a.m. every Monday and Wednesday in Davis Hall of the Gallagher Bluedorn Performing Arts Center (GBPAC). The UNI-WADE Director Ryan Frost said in an email that class sizes range from 10 to 15 students each semester.

According to Frost, the group performs between two and four times each semester. Their next concert is at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 30, in Davis Hall of the GBPAC.

“I love when West African Drum comes to the Union,” said Jennifer Zehner, a junior elementary education major.

Zehner, as a part of the Student Life Team, helped bring UNI-WADE to the Maucker Union last semester. She said Student Life contacted Frost to bring the group back again this fall semester.

“They’re something so different than most things you see,” Zehner said.

During the performance, the drummers all wore brightly colored traditional shirts from the West African region. They switched from sitting and performing to standing and performing after transitioning instruments.

“We performed a piece from the Ewe people,” Frost said. “They live in the southeast corner of Ghana. […] And we also performed Bamaya.”

The Bamaya piece, called the Dagomba, is from the northern region of Ghana, according to Frost. They then ended on another Ewe piece from Kinka.

Samantha Steffensmeier, senior leisure youth and human services major, joined UNI-WADE at the start of the school year.

“It helps me explore other cultures through music,” Steffensmeier said. “It is kind of hard to get up in the morning, but it is also a refreshing way […] and energetic way to get your blood pumping.”

“It’s early, but we get to wake up and play some fun music and dance,” said Katie Campbell, senior English and graphic design double major. “You get to know the people in the ensemble very well [in class].”

Although the class is taught through the UNI School of Music, they don’t learn how to play their instruments like other music students typically do.

“We don’t actually use music; we just kind of learn it,” Campbell said.

The learning method UNI-WADE uses is called oral tradition, which, according to Frost is how people from that region also learn their instruments.

“There’s a lot that’s just improvise and go with the flow when something happens,” Campbell said. “We’ll learn dances and learn different drumming techniques with different instruments.”

According to Frost, the ensemble used a variety of drums from the West African nation of Ghana during their performance. This included the talking drum, also known as the luna, sogo, kidi and the djembe.

“It’s open to everyone, and you don’t have to be a percussionist or a musician to join,” Campbell said. “You’ll learn everything you need to know in the class. And it’s just a lot of fun.”