Loud, synchronized percussion filled the room as Ellen Rondina’s West African Drum Ensemble walked onstage to drum along a West African rhythm Wednesday night in the Dailey Theatre.
Rondina’s class of 13 students performed multiple drum sequences for the crowd of no more than 60 audience members.
The performers were dressed in all black, along with orange, blue and white stoles with an African print to complete their outfits.
The audience was full of students, friends and family members of the performers, with all eyes geared toward the stage as the crowd paid full attention to the performance.
Rondina said that the performance was a “performance, lecture, and workshop,” as it was an opportunity for audience members to participate as Rondina and her class provided context behind their drum performance.
Students worked in small groups to research the two pieces they performed, which come from a tribe in Ghana called Ga.
The audience was given a bit of background about the country of Ghana, including its history and music, as the show began.
Of the two pieces performed, the first piece was titled “Patsa,” which is a Ghanaian dance associated with puberty rights, rituals and the supernatural.
“Patsa” is frequently performed in tribal ceremonies, Christmas and Easter celebrations.
The Ga people make their own drums, by hand, in order to express their spirit and their culture.
Their culture is largely represented by festivities and peaceful traditions.
The second performance was titled “Kpanlogo,” a recreational piece that emerged in the late 1950s around the time Ghana gained its independence.
While performing “Kpanlogo” through drumming, the students sang a traditional song in the native Ga language.
A bell rang through the theater in a cadence fashion, piecing together the thunderous sound of the drums.
Rondina said that dancing and singing all go hand in hand with one another in West Africa. There is no one without the other.
Senior psychology major Mariah Cordova liked that the class not only learned to play the drums, but also learned about the cultural background.
“You don’t necessarily have to be a musician to learn music,” Cordova said.
Rondina has been teaching the course for 20 years. Prior to teaching, she traveled to Africa to study drumming.
“For seven years that’s all I wanted to do, and I knew I was a drummer,” Rondina said.
Rondina finds fulfillment in the transformations students have when they take her course.
“They think it’s going to be one thing, and it’s really different from what they think it’s going to be,” Rondina said.
Rondina said students transform, love and embrace this course, though it tends to be a lot harder than they initially believe before taking it.
Junior chemistry major Frankie Antillon has learned a lot about teamwork from this course.
“When you see West African drumming, you think that it’s so easy,” Antillon said. “I didn’t realize how much teamwork really goes into play.”
Walnut Valley Unified School District employee Mary Harms attended the show to watch her friends perform.
“It seems fun, it seems like a great release,” Harms said. “The historical aspects of it are really interesting.
The West African Drum Ensemble class is not only open to ULV students but to community members as well.
Ashley Mubiru can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.