PHILADELPHIA, PA—Voices of Africa, Cultural Arts Collective choral and percussion ensemble, offers a community workshop and concert on Wednesday, February 22, 6 pm at the Penn Museum in Philadelphia. The family-friendly event, free with Museum admission ($10 adult; $7 seniors 65 and older; $6 students and children 6-17), is a featured program offered in conjunction with the Museum's year-long gallery project, Imagine Africa with the Penn Museum.
An African Cultural Arts Collective that works with a range of Philadelphia area artists from around the African Diaspora, Voices of Africa has performed widely throughout the region, around the country at sites including the Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., and the National Women's Music Festival, and at venues internationally since its founding in 1990. The Penn Museum program with Voices of Africa features an ensemble of 6-8 singers, drummers and dancers. The program is curated by Gina Renzi, Director of The Rotunda, a community gathering place in University City, fueled by the belief that art is a catalyst of social change.
The program runs from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. After an introduction, the performance is from 6:15 to 7:00 pm and is followed by a 60-minute workshop of drumming, dancing and singing.
Voices of Africa features a unique blending of a cappella harmonies with traditional West African percussive rhythms. Their music spans the African Diaspora, with traditional African and African-American songs, message music, gospel, and inspirational percussive rhythms, played on a variety of instruments including the sakara, a hand held shallow drum; the sekere, a beaded gourd drum; the agogo, a double headed metal bells; the djembe, a skin-covered drum; and the sangba, a cylindrical drum played with a stick.
During the performance and workshop, guests are invited to participate as they learn about the history of the music, the techniques and style of the drums used in performance, as well as the connection between musical and movement styles in African dance.
Nana Baakan, Founder and Managing Director of the Ensemble, stresses the participatory aspect of the ensemble's performance. "In traditional African society, everyone actively participates in the making of music. It is not just entertainment but interaction between musician and the community."
She cites an African Proverb from Uganda: "If you can walk, you can dance. If you can talk, you can sing."
Penn Museum is open until 8:00 pm Wednesday nights, and visitors to the Voices of Africa program are invited to explore the Imagine Africa with the Penn Museum second floor gallery project before the program. Penn Museum has drawn upon its extraordinary African collection to present more than 50 objects framed around eight broad topics, from "Beauty" and "Strength," to "Healing," "Creating," and "The Divine." Through a variety of engagement opportunities, visitors are asked to provide feedback on the objects and content they see, and to discuss what would make an engaging exhibition—from their point of view. Throughout the year, the Museum is engaging—through the gallery installation, diverse public programming, and a rich website—in discussions with the regional community, as it begins long-range plans to re-envision its African gallery for a 21st century audience.
Imagine Africa with the Penn Museum is made possible with funding from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program, and the PoGo Family Foundation. The Philadelphia Tribune and WDAS radio are media sponsors.
Penn Museum (the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology), celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2012, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage.
Penn Museum is located at 3260 South Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (on Penn's campus, across from Franklin Field). Public transportation to the Museum is available via SEPTA's Regional Rail Line at University City Station; the Market-Frankford Subway Line at 34th Street Station; trolley routes 11, 13, 34, and 36; and bus routes 12, 21, 30, 40, and 42. Museum hours are Tuesday and Thursday through Sunday, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and Wednesday, 10:00 am to 8:00 pm, with P.M. @ PENN MUSEUM evening programs offered select Wednesdays. Closed Mondays and holidays. Admission donation is $10 for adults; $7 for senior citizens (65 and above); $6 children (6 to 17) and full-time students with ID; free to Members, PennCard holders, and children 5 and younger; "pay-what-you-want" the last hour before closing. Hot and cold meals and light refreshments are offered to visitors with or without Museum admission in The Pepper Mill Café; the Museum Shop and Pyramid Shop for Children offer a wide selection of gifts, books, games, clothing and jewelry. Penn Museum can be found on the web at www.penn.museum. For general information call 215.898.4000. For group tour information call 215.746.8183.
Photo captions (listed top to bottom): Voices of Africa, a choral and percussion ensemble presenting a cappella harmonies and traditional West African rhythms, perform February 22, 6:00 pm at Penn Museum. Middle: Voices of Africa members, performing February 22, 6:00 pm at Penn Museum, play the sekere, a gourd instrument originating from West Africa. Bottom: Nana Baakan is a performer, as well as Managing Director and Founder of Voices of Africa, a choral and percussion ensemble performing February 22, 6:00 pm at Penn Museum. Photos courtesy Voices of Africa.