Ole Miss Acquires Unique Drums From Ghana
Music lessons at the University of Mississippi are about to become even more dynamic, thanks to a recently acquired, hand-carved drum set from West Africa.
Intricately decorated and culturally rich, the 15 drums are native to the Ewe of southeastern Ghana. For centuries, Ewe drums have provided vibrant rhythms for indigenous dances and music, said UM assistant professor of music George Worlasi Kwasi Dor.
The drums debuted on campus April 14 in a public World Percussion Ensemble concert featuring Dor as master drummer of the Gahu drum ensemble.
Carved from tweneboa, a Ghanaian cedar tree, the drums have fragile skins and tuning pegs. Acquisition of the set “resonates with UM’s commitment to the diversification of its programs,” says Dor, who is Ghanaian.
“African drumming can become a vital component of our rich performance programs, and students majoring in composition and music theory can draw on rhythmic resources imbibed from drum lessons to enrich their creative vocabulary,” he says. “The drums will also add to the cultural lives of African students studying at Ole Miss.”
The drums, which cost some $2,000, were purchased by the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College, with additional funding from the music department.
The instruments not only will serve as unique teaching tools, they will help students better understand traditional African-derived ensemble drumming, and African and world music themes, Dor said. Plans call for the formation of a performing African dance ensemble and drumming lessons offered to students, faculty and staff.
“This area has a rich history in rock-and-roll and blues, music that was strongly influenced by African traditions,” says John Samonds, associate dean of the McDonnell-Barksdale Honors College. “These drums are a physical symbol of the cross-cultural influences, and through them those connections can be studied.”
UM joins a growing list of schools, such as the University of West Virginia, the University of North Texas and the University of California at Berkeley, whose specialized drumming directors are indigenous Ewe musicians.
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