Performances will celebrate African and other cultures

The strings of a West African kora will mingle with the sound of a saxophone at York University this weekend during the first annual Humanity in Harmony performance collaboration. The event, which begins today and continues tomorrow at the Keele campus, brings together music, dance, theatre, poetry, visual arts and many other art forms, in a unique interdisciplinary celebration of African and other cultures.

Renowned ethnomusicologist J. H. Kwabena Nketia (left), professor emeritus at the University of Ghana’s International Centre for African Music & Dance, will speak to students and members of the public this morning about the interrelation of African expressive forms. The performance collaborations on Friday and Saturday evenings will open with kete drumming and comments from Nketia, who has more than 80 musical compositions and 200 scholarly publications to his credit and has been honoured with many national and international awards including the IMC-UNESCO Music Prize for Distinguished Service to Music. The prize is awarded by the International Music Council and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization to individuals who have contributed to the enrichment of music, to understanding between peoples, and to international cooperation.

The performance collaboration by York faculty, students and members of the community, was conceived by Isaac Akrong (MA ‘03) (right), a York PhD student in ethnomusicology and an alumnus of York’s graduate program in dance. Akrong, an exceptional performer of traditional dance and drumming from Ghana, is founder of the African Dance Ensemble, one of many groups of York students and community members that will perform Friday and Saturday evenings. In addition to Akrong, two key people have been instrumental in bringing Humanity in Harmony to York, they include Everett Igobwa, a York PhD student in ethnomusicology, and York Professor Pablo Idahosa, director of the African Studies Program at York University

“The performance evenings will include many types of expressive culture – from many disciplines,” said Akrong. “We will have a little of everything, from the pounding rhythms of African drums to the grace of classical piano, sculpture and even a comic mime troupe.”

Included in the event is a performance by the Skyjuice Band, which has been together since 2005. Its members all come from different backgrounds and together form an eclectic fusion of African, Caribbean, jazz, and reggae styles. There will also be readings of original poetry, visual arts displays including original paintings and photographs, and many performances from students’ traditional music. PhD student Everett Igobwa, for example, will play the thum nyatiti, an eight-string lyre of the Luo people of Kenya.

Left: Professor Pablo Idahosa, director of the African Studies Program at York, is one of the organizers of  Humanity in Harmony

All performances and lectures will take place in the Accolade East Building at York’s Keele campus. The keynote lecture by Nketia is scheduled to run from 9:30 to 11:30am in Room 241, Accolade East and is free to students and open to the public.

The performances take place at 7:30pm tonight and Saturday, Sept. 30, in the Sandra Faire and Ivan Fecan Theatre, Accolade East. Tickets are $10 for students/seniors, and $15 regular price. To buy tickets online or get box office information, see York’s Fine Arts Performance Facilities Web site.