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March, 2015

Sharing culture through dance

African troupe members spread peace, happiness at Gateway stops

By Jo Heffner

Saakumu Dance Troupe

The Saakumu Dance Troupe entertained staff and students alike on three Gateway campuses as part of Gateway’s celebration of Black History month. The troupe is dedicated to introducing audiences to traditional and contemporary African dance.

The Saakumu (pronounced sah-koo-moo) Dance Troupe came to three Gateway Technical College campuses to celebrate Black History Month in February. Coming from Ghana, Africa, where more than 60 languages are spoken, it’s not surprising that at least seven languages were spoken among troupe members.

The first drum to make its appearance during the performance was the talking drum. By making sounds on the inside of the talking drum, the musician can “talk.” One phrase that was spoken by the musician to those gathered was “thank you.” Can you hear it in your mind? High, low. Thank you.

The talking drum was outlawed at one time to prevent communication. It was thought that the talking drum would mobilize troops, and that war would ensue. This is the drum that was later used to bring peace.

After the introduction of the talking drum, other musicians gathered to join the first. An upbeat tempo brought out the dancers of the Saakumu Dance Troupe. Many traditional dances were represented by the tireless dancers in their native dress. Hand-sewn garments in bright yellows, greens and oranges created a whirl of color and stomping feet.

One of the instruments, much like the xylophone, looks like a small raft with slats of wood attached. As the instrument was turned over and the underbelly exposed, the musician explained that the gourds that were attached created various sounds. He also explained that the circular white spots on the gourds were spider webs that were gathered by children. When the instrument was struck on the upper side, the vibrations would go through the gourds and then through the spider webs, creating a very distinct sound.

The troupe performed a traditional dance for peace.

“If you don’t like someone at the beginning of the dance, you will like them by the end,” said Sly Boots, leader of the group.

As the dancers moved in a line around the room, stomping and dancing to the music, they invited guests to join them. The crowd clapped, sang and danced along with huge smiles on their faces.

“It was really cool to watch,” said student Jason Fong. “Next time I’ll dance along.”

“Bad dancing never hurt the ground!” Boots said. “So why are you afraid to dance?”

Life is Big. Be Prepared.