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By Alicia Nemiccolo MacLeay '97
People think African music is simply about drumming, says Jordan Benissan, a master drummer originally from Togo, West Africa. But African music and culture, Benissan tells his Colby students, aren't simple at all: "I want to reflect the different styles of drumming and the diversity of cultural music in West Africa." With his second CD, Beautiful Music From West Africa, the applied music associate aims to properly introduce the music of his homeland to a wider community. This mission fits perfectly with his duties as a master drummer--to be a teacher, an oral historian and a custodian of his people's heritage. While every song on the CD is traditional, Benissan believes it is important to understand how each has evolved through the interpretation and transference of generations of musicians. He says he picked each of the eight songs on Beautiful Music From West Africa because they touched him in different ways. Selections include the healing medicine music "Sakrabude" (Father of the Sprits), the traditional Ewe lullaby "Tutu Gbovi" and the religious and celebratory social dance "Sido."
To become a master drummer, Benissan, a member of the Ewe ethnic group, studied for 10 years with traditional master drummers from the Ewe, Ashanti, Ga and Yoruba people of West Africa and then performed for another 10 years to master the craft. But he claims he's not finished learning yet. He is currently studying the complex rhythms of playing two or three drums and singing at the same time. "Even though you've moved to a point where you're the master of what you're doing, you're still learning," he said. "I think it probably just takes you your whole life."
While the CD is a solo act with Benissan performing all of the vocals and percussion, he also has a band, Sankofa, which combines traditional rhythms and songs with modern music. Benissan says he is influenced by classic rock and roll, like Santana and Led Zeppelin, and finds those musicians more inspirational than contemporary pop stars. "Because it took them a lifetime as performers and musicians to achieve what they were doing," he said. "They had to learn everything and experience, experiment." Much like a master drummer.
The Colby College Museum of Art has grown steadily in stature over the
past four decades. Lynne Moss Perricelli '95 looks at the museum's past,
present, and future.
Pride and Prejudice
Gay Colby students are demanding more visibility and inclusion in the
College community. Colby details their concerns, and those of
students who think the gay community has gone too far.
Construction begins for The Colby Green, the centerpiece of the
College's most significant expansion in a half-century.
All that Jazz
Vinnie Martucci '77 composes and improvises to make a life in music
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