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African Drumming and Dance

African Drumming and Dance

Sowah Mensah, Macalester College, University of St. Thomas, University of Minnesota

MUSED 505- Special Topics
Class 73280, Section 202
2:00-7:30 PM (Monday – Thursday) 10:30-4:00 PM (Friday
201 Stearns, 2005 Baits Drive

This workshop will explore traditional Ghanaian music through performance modes of drumming, singing, and dancing within its cultural context. Course includes techniques and teaching methods that can be used in the classroom. Pieces will be selected from a variety of musical styles such as unaccompanied vocal chants, songs, music from life cycle events, children’s music and music for social and other festive occasions. No prior drumming experience is required.


Sowah Mensah is an ethnomusicologist, composer and a “Master Drummer” from Ghana, West Africa. Sowah has taught music in both Ghana and Nigeria and is currently a music professor at both Macalester College, and the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN where he also directs each school’s African Music Ensemble. In addtion, he is currently a James Marsh Professor-at-Large at the University of Vermont in Burlington, VT and directs the African Music Ensemble at the University of Minnesota. Sowah is the director of Sankofa, a Ghanaian Folklore and Dance Ensemble in the Twin Cities and a member of Speaking in Tongues, a four-piece group based out of the Twin Cities that uses two percussionists, a bassist and a Chinese pipa player. Sowah enjoys an active performance career. In August 2003 Sowah toured Beijing, China with the Kenmore Wind Ensemble from Kenmore, WA to perform his composition “Nyamo” for Band and African Ensemble where they performed at the prestigious Tsinghua University. Sowah was then invited back in June 2004 to conduct a series of workshops for high school music teachers and students. In May 2000 he made his Carnegie Hall, New York debut as a soloist in David Fanshaw’s African Sanctus. He has performed extensively in the United States, the Latin Americas, and in Africa, where he performed with the Ghana National Symphony Orchestra. In the United States, he has performed with notables such as Max Roach, Don Chery, Roscoe Mitchel, and Julius Hemphil. He has also performed with the Minnesota Symphony Orchestra, Chanticleer, Minnesota Center Chorale, St. Paul Civic Symphony, Minnesota Sinfonia, Duluth Superior Symphony, Minnetonka Symphony Orchestra, Abendmusik: the Lincoln Chorus of Nebraska, and the Master Chorale of Tampa Bay, Florida, as well as many folk festivals in the US. In addition, Sowah presents clinics, lectures, workshops, and residencies at many colleges, elementary and secondary schools, churches, and music organizations all over the United States. Sow’s third solo album, Sii Sii Sii, was released in March 2007.