Nimbaya! to bring blend of drumming, dance to campus

African group visits Monday as part of one-day MusicUnitesUs residency

Music will do the translating when the African group Nimbaya! brings its unique blend of drumming and dance to campus next week.

The all-female group, from the West African nation of Guinea, has courageously broken traditional gender roles in a society in which women were prohibited from playing the djembe, a skin-covered, goblet-shaped drum.

Nimbaya! will be on campus Monday, Feb. 13, for a one-day residency as part of the annual MusicUnitesUs program. It will be the group’s second visit to Brandeis; in 2007, the women, then known as the Amazones, took part in that year’s three-day MusicUnitesUs event.

“What they are doing has changed their lives,” says music professor and MusicUnitesUs founder Judy Eissenberg, adding that last time they visited, the political environment in Guinea was too dangerous for the women to return there.

The makeup of the group changes frequently, and members are often in dire straits – jobless and with children to support. Money they make touring the world makes a significant difference for them and their families and helps facilitate economic independence.

Eissenberg says she wants students to learn about the Nimbaya! performers’ lives and the environment that gave rise to their work, in addition to the art itself.

Two Brandeis graduate students who speak Malinke, the language of Guinea, will help translate for the group, but on the whole, Eissenberg says, “Music will do the translating.”

Nimbaya! will have busy day Monday. In the morning the group will sit in with a graduating acting class.  (The general community can attend if they can’t make the public performance later in the day.) At 1 p.m., they will tell their stories in an open session in the Slosberg recital hall with the Intro to World Music class, which has been studying the music of West Africa. At 4 p.m., Nimbaya! will give a public performance in the Shapiro Student Center Atrium, and at 5:15 p.m., Nimbaya will offer an informal dancing and drumming workshop for students.

The day will conclude, as part of the DEIS Impact festival, with a screening of “Wardance,” in the Shapiro Theater at 7 p.m. It is a documentary about Ugandan children living in a displacement camp who are inspired by music and dance. A discussion will follow the film.

Categories: Arts

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