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The festival will draw connections between African and Ghanaian traditions and a broader dispora of African-derived music making. Presentations and performances will focus on the interrelationship between African traditions, Afropop, jazz, and funk. Hearing the music of traditional artists back to back with music that intertwines jazz and Afropop with traditional elements will help audiences understand the aesthetic and cultural similarities between African diasporic musics.
The festival will feature Kwaku Kwaakye (Martin) Obeng, Midawo Gideon Foli Alorwoyie, Carl Atkins, Bill Lowe, Wes Brown, Kwabena Boateng, Sarah Botchway, and others. Musicians will discuss the multiple roles they play as artists, composers, educators and scholars, and lead performances and workshops. Workshops and lectures include: a seminar on Ghanaian drumming, dancing, and singing that will engage participants in dialogue about the place of African musics in the contemporary world; a lecture with Professor Carl Atkins, a renowned jazz performer and scholar on processional and parade music in the diaspora, beginning in Africa and culminating in modern manifestations like the marching and show bands found in present-day, historically black colleges and universities; a reading by renowned Ghanaian author Ama Ata Aidoo; and a full-band performance led by Martin Kwaku Kwaakye Obeng.
In addition to celebrating the dynamic forms of African music and the unique contributions of Martin Obeng, Freeman Donkor, and James Koetting to Brown University's African music program over the past 20 years , the festival will provide a framework from which to present the launch of Brown's online James T. Koetting Archive, a digitized collection of African field recordings by Koetting. The archive highlights Kasena music from Northern Ghana, a type of music that has received little scholarly attention since Koetting's work.