Visions & Voices: Conversations of the Talking Drums: An Evening of West African Dance

April 4, 2020
USC Tommys Place
3607 Trousdale Parkway, Basement, Los Angeles, CA 90089
Los Angeles, CA

Conversations of the Talking Drums
An Evening of West African Dance

Admission is free. Reservations required. RSVP beginning Thursdsay, March 5, at 9 a.m.

Join us for an unforgettable performance of West African dance, drumming, and singing featuring one of the leading Ghanaian artists of his generation. Renowned for the energy and precision of his performances, Nani Agbeli has led award-winning troupes and educated artists in traditional dance forms at the Dagbe Cultural Center in Ghana and the California Institute of the Arts, where he is director of the MFA program in African music and dance.

Agbeli will be joined by other artists, including graduates of the CalArts African music and dance program and Amaria Stern of the USC Kaufman School of Dance. The pieces will showcase handmade traditional West African costumes and explore the philosophical ideas of Sankofa in health, wellness, and community life.

The event will also include a conversation with Agbeli; C.K. Ladzekpo, a renowned Ghanaian artist who is director and founder of the African Music and Dance Ensemble at UC Berkeley; Tufts University ethnomusicology professor David LockePing Ho, founder and director of UCLArts and Healing; and USC occupational therapy adjunct professor Bonnie Nakasuji. Topics include the talking drums in West African cultural life, the traditions of the Ghanaian people, and the arts as therapeutic tools for personal and community wellness.

Nani Agbeli hails from a family of professional dancers and drummers from Ghana’s Volta Region, and is one of the leading traditional dancers of his generation. In Ghana, he served as principal drum and dance instructor at the Dagbe Cultural Center, a school that trains students in Ghanaian traditional arts. Agbeli joined CalArts after directing Kiniwe, the African drum and dance ensemble of the music department at Tufts University, as well as programs at Harvard University, Brandeis University, and more. His professional goals include the unification of West African music and dance with creative multi-arts initiatives in percussion, dance, music, and choreography.

Ping Ho is founder/director of UCLArts and Healing, which offers training in the use of creative expression for self-discovery, connection, and empowerment, and integrates her education in counseling psychology and public health with her lifelong experience in the performing arts. Ho developed Beat the Odds®, a drumming-based program for social-emotional skill building, and is co-author of The Innovative Parent: Raising Connected, Happy, Successful Kids through Art.

C.K. Ladzekpo has combined a brilliant career as a performer, choreographer, and composer with teaching and extensive scholarly research into African performing arts. In Ghana, he held lead roles at prominent institutions including the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, University of Ghana’s Institute of African Studies, and the Arts Council of Ghana. At UC Berkeley he founded the critically acclaimed African Music and Dance Ensemble. He has led pioneering presentations around the world, received numerous awards, and remains an influential catalyst of the African perspective in the performing arts.

David Locke teaches ethnomusicology in the music department of Tufts University. The professor and department chair has written three books, numerous scholarly articles, and the Africa chapter in Worlds of Music, an ethnomusicology textbook. He has created online monographs for Dagbamba dance-drumming and several idioms of Ewe music, and founded the Agbekor Drum and Dance Society as well as Kiniwe.

Bonnie Nakasuji is an occupational therapist, co-owner of a pediatric private practice in Los Angeles, and adjunct associate professor of occupational therapy (OT) at USC. She is responsible for taking USC-OT students to Ghana, West Africa, to work with children with disabilities. She believes dance and music is a powerful common language.

Related Events:
Drumming and Dancing Wellness Workshops
Thursday, April 9, 2020
12 p.m.. at Hahn Plaza (UPC)
5 p. m. at Pappas Court (HSC)
For more info, click here.

Presented by USC Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative. Organized by the USC Libraries in collaboration with the Office of Religious Life, Office of Wellness at the USC Keck School of Medicine, and Office for Health Promotion Strategy at USC Student Health.

Photo: Alonso Nichols/Tufts University