A very special thank you to the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation for making this special program possible!
The Tahlila West African Drumming and Song Workshop Series focused on West African drumming and song with public school students, who are predominantly of Afro-Caribbean descent, at the Julius E. Sprauve public school, with technical assistance from the St. John School of the Arts, on St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands.
From May 5 to June 23rd, CTMD Touring Artist and master Guinean drummer and dancer Sidiki Conde traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands with support from the Mid Atlantic Folk and Traditional Arts Community Projects Grants program.
All photos courtesy of Deborah Ross
In collaboration with local drumming master Eddie Bruce, he lead workshops exploring Afro-Caribbean and West African heritage through rhythm and song with local youth and artists. Students learned West African kasa, a rhythm played during communal harvests using both djembe and dongo drums. 15 students attended the workshops for five days with Conde and Bruce joined the workshops on 3 days.
One individual student stood out and soon took over as lead student drummer while taking the time to help other students master the rhythm.
The workshop drummers and singers gave a finale performance attended by the whole school and a number of parents and community members. Sidiki opened the show with a traditional song and the story of his culture and high place music holds in West Africa. Bruce spoke to the students about the African drum and its place in Caribbean culture. The audience joined in clapping the beat. Many were dancing. At performance end, line after line of the younger students came on stage to play the drums and join the music.
A special thank you to Jeune Provost, director of St. John School of the Arts, who facilitated the program; the Julius E. Sprauve public school, which hosted the workshops; and principal Michelle Rogers-Bully, who provided introductions to the students; and Deborah Ross, an amazing artist in her own right and tour manager!