The Voices Of Africa Choral & Percussion Ensemble
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The Voices Of Africa Choral & Percussion Ensemble

Darby, Pennsylvania, United States

Darby, Pennsylvania, United States
World Traditional

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"The Clock - Arts & Entertainment"

The Clock - Arts & Entertainment
Issue: 2/28/03

Voices of Africa: Performance Brings Warmth and Vibrance to Plymouth Through Song and Dance
By Nathan Alander
http://www.theclockonline.com/global_user_elements/printpage.cfm?storyid=383208

While the wintery weather mix may have kept some people home Saturday evening, Hanaway Theatre in Silver Cultural Arts Center was alive with African song, dance, and audience participation. "Voices of Africa," a group of five women who play traditional African drums and sing, brought their body moving rhythms and witty, upbeat attitudes to a group of some 430 people, beginning the evening by saying, "we're gonna melt the snow in here."
"Voices of Africa" has been performing their "soul-stirring a cappella harmonies and traditional West African percussive rhythms" since 1991. Band members include Nana Baakan Agyiriwah (Founder and Managing Director), Adua Tacheampong (Musical Director and Nana's daughter), Zakiyyah Rashed (Public Relations Coordinator), Angail Abdul-Badee (Wardrobe Consultation), and Akosua Nyo Agyiriwah (Associate Member).
The enthusiasm of the band was not only musically moving but also visually stunning, as the four members (one was unable to make the trip) took the stage in brightly colored dresses, accompanied by the sound of traditional drums. Songs with lyrics like, "Clap your hands, move your feet, move your body to the beat" struck nerves in almost all the audience members, prompting some to get out of their own seats and "shake their booty's."
Amid songs, the band members introduced their instruments and themselves, and at times, the humor of the women resembled a Golden Girls episode. But, as Zakiyyah jokingly pointed out in an attempt to get more audience interaction, "This is not television."
The traditional West African percussion instruments used by the group are the Sakara (sah' kah rah), which is a hand held frame drum; the Sekere (shay' ka ray), which are beaded gourds; double headed bells known as agogo (ah goe goe); and Sangba drums found in Ghana and Nigeria.
The Philadelphia based group has been in New Hampshire for the past week, working with the children from Andover, Innerlakes, and Campton elementary schools, among others. After a brief intermission, members of the Campton elementary school joined "Voices of Africa" on stage for a compilation song. Some kids played the traditional drums, while others performed various dances and chants. After the children's scheduled performance, "Voice of Africa" continued their second set. The enthusiasm of the children carried through the second set, where they could hardly contain their energy. The evening culminated with children dancing in the aisles and the rest of the audience members clapping their hands and shaking whatever they could.
- The ClockOnline


"Visually, Aesthetic, Artistic, Soulful, Spiritual, Enlightening and of course Educational interaction"

http://www.onepeolples.com/current/voices.html
STUNNING! These sistas' performance is a Visually, Aesthetic, Artistic, Soulful, Spiritual, Enlightening and of course Educational interaction that any lover of our rich culture would highly appreciate.
I spent a cunningly unique evening out with my mate who enjoys surprising me on “special” nights out. She will cleverly make arrangements for our ‘ evening out ' with every detail in place that includes me NOT knowing or figuring out what the evening will entail other than ‘ going out '.
My mate does “surprise-evenings” on occasion KNOWING how I despise “surprises” but does so with the certainty of her knowledge of the kinds of things I would and would not enjoy and I'm very aware and submit that she does have a keen sense of my entertainment pleasures. Therefore, I never fret that whatever event she schedules for me that I am going to enjoy it. (What my mate doesn't know is that there is a part of me that also enjoys being mentally and spiritually PREPARED for various situations so as I can get the maximum benefits from whatever it is I going to experience).
What do I like? I prefer TALENT above all else. As long as an artist is good at what they do I will enjoy a performance. Voices of Africa have talent beyond measure. I am partial to African Cultural artistry. Voices of Africa are very Cultural not just as a gimmick, but as a lifestyle. I'm a drumming (and guitar) enthusiast. Drumming is what Voices of Africa does along with a cappella. I can appreciate beautiful Cultural sistas who are business women AND artists, like my mate and that the Voices of Africa are. These sistas well represented African culture, professionalisms and womanhood all in one package. My mate was correct; I loved the performance and night out.
My night led me to Philly where I saw the performance of the Voices Of Africa at a small intimate dinner/club. The choral assemble is composed of 5 multi-talented attractive Cultural sistas who drummed and danced as they played, sang ‘a capella' in English and various African languages and continuously switched to various African rhythmic instruments including the Shakeree, bell and a small, flat hand held open-end drum. When the Voices of Africa opened up with their sound, it was if I was listening to a full Jimbe' drum orchestra of variations of West African drums. For real, it sounded like a full orchestra of 10 or more people. Every high, low and all the in-betweens were there in their music.
When they sang, the harmonies were tight and professional and the sistas always managed to explain the meaning behind the songs which made it even more appreciable to listen to the messages of the songs.
The positive vibrations that these sistas' projected throughout the evening ‘forced' even the most reserved (like myself) to join and participate in on their ‘celebration' of our Culture. While listening to them one just HAS to be involved by clapping, tapping the feet or outright getting' up and dancing! Not only were the sista's extremely competent with their various instruments they were additionally seasoned dancers as well.
I could say a lot more about their performance but I don't want to give away any treats of enjoyment one experiences when they get something for the first time and I am appealing to all who enjoy our glorious Culture and can appreciate good talent in a professional performance to go see them live. They have a rigorous performance schedule which makes it easier to not have to wait a long time just to see their performance. At their website they list all the places they're performing and everyone just oughta' check them out.
In their own words taken from their website www.voicesofafrica.net
Drum Is the Ear of God: Africa's Inner World of Music http://www.bmrc.berkeley.edu/people/rhodges/html/Ear.html
We are an internationally acclaimed, all women's a cappella and percussion ensemble. We perform a powerfully unique blend of soul-stirring a cappella harmonies and African Percussions. The instruments we play are the Sekere (Shay-ka-ray), S akara (Saa-ka-ra) and S angba drums and A gogo (ah-go-go) double headed bells). Our music spans the African Diaspora and brings a powerful message about our culture and tradition as African descendant women who dare to play drums. See the Testimonies !!!!!
We are available to bring our culturally rich entertainment to your place of business, school, church, university, community center social and/or cultural programs.
DECACS, Inc., a non for profit organization, is the parent organization of The "Voices Of Africa " Choral Ensemble. We continue to reach out to others who are less fortunate year round, especially to our seniors, and young children in schools around our country and the world. All too often these populations are not able to participate in fine cultural enrichment programming that we offer due to financial constraints. Please feel free - http://www.onepeolples.com/


"Internet Web Reviews & Links"

VOA @ Paul Robeson Cultural Center
http://www.collegian.psu.edu/archive/2004/10/10-21-04tdc/10-21-04darts-02.asp

VOA Rehearsal
http://www.windchimewalker.net/-collected_image_files/06.2-Jun/6-23-voices-of-africa.html

Voices Of Africa in Concert/A Smashing Success
http://www.rosetree.k12.pa.us/foundation/grants/voices_2003/rtm.htm

The New Hampshire/Student Publication of the University of New Hampshire
http://www.tnhonline.com/news/2004/02/10/News/Unh-Indulges.In.A.Little.Piece.Of.Africa-602396.shtml

Omega Institute
http://www.eomega.org/omega/faculty/viewProfile/8441e358cdbf4ab05771eb113c8cddd8/

North By Northwest
http://www.nxnwphl.com/viewevent.asp?cat=Events&id=389

Montgomery County Cultural Center
http://www.artscc.org/blackhistory2002.html

First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit
http://www.1stuu.org/newsletters/Newsletter%20feb%201.htm

Rose Tree Media Education Foundation/VOA @ Springton Lake Middle School
http://www.rosetree.k12.pa.us/foundation/grants/voices/rtmef_grant_voices_.htm

University of Northern Iowa
http://www.uni.edu/pubrel/newsroom/releases/090401.html

Women's Equality Day 2003, Louisville, Kentucky
http://www.louisville.edu/provost/womenctr/WED%20flyer%205.pdf.

ESL Conference Feb. 16, 2005
www.state.ia.us/educate/ ecese/is/ell/conf/confsched05.doc
http://www.state.ia.us/educate/ecese/is/ell/conf/registration05.doc.

African Music on the Internet
http://www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/ssrg/africa/music.html

Worlddiscoveries.net
http://www.worlddiscoveries.net/General%20Africa%20Revs.htm

Sedqwick Cultural Center, Phila, PA
http://sedgwickcenter.org/html/calendar.html

VOA in Oshkosk, WI
http://www.advancetitan.com/story.asp?issue=11114&story=3509
http://www.the-index.org/cgi-bin/story.pl?1015king

Women & Earth Conference
http://www.dorsai.org/~womearth/VAFRICA.htm

Spinx Management Group
http://sphinxmg.com/new_to_roster.htm

Your Voice Interview
http://voicesofafrica.blogspot.com/

Morris Arboretums/ UofPennsylvania
http://www.business-services.upenn.edu/arboretum/julyevents052.html

Cheyney State University
http://www.cheyney.edu/NewsEvents3.asp?page=News%20and%20Events&newsid=57

Best of the Web/Women's Festivals
http://www.cheyney.edu/NewsEvents3.asp?page=News%20and%20Events&newsid=57

Albion College/Anna Howard Shaw Center for Women's Studies
http://www.albion.edu/womenstudies/AHSevents/ahsm2001.asp
http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/2001/03_02/news_4.asp

Widener University
www.science.widener.edu/ws/confflyer.doc

Bowling Green State U
http://www.bgsu.edu/offices/sa/pub/obsidian/concert.html

VOA @ Wilbraham Monson Academy, Wilbraham, MA
http://wmacademy.org/media/sp/Publications/WesJan04.pdf.

Women's Voices
http://www.capitalxtra.on.ca/queercapital/cx94/cx94_womens_voices.htm

Middle Tennessee State University
http://www.mtsu.edu/~aahm/calendar.html

Smithsonian Institute/Museum of Africa Art
http://educate.si.edu/heritage/WHM03/Performances.htm

Dignity Housing
http://www.dignityhousing.org/

Philly Fringe Festival
http://www.livearts-fringe.org/2004/fringe/templates/details.cfm?id=4170

So Musical
http://www.somusical.com/education/vocal/a-cappella/bands-and-artists/semi-pro-and-recreational-groups/

The Rotunda
http://www.mail-archive.com/culture@list.purple.com/msg00348.html
http://www.upenn.edu/pennnews/current/2004/070804/calendar.html

Genus Records
http://www.genusrecords.com/KANGAROOS_songs.html

Austin College, Austin, Texas
http://www.austincollege.edu/Info.asp?1832

VOA Debut in New York
http://listserv.dartmouth.edu/scripts/wa.exe?A2=ind0005&L=wrac-l&T=0&F=&S=&P=619

Phila. Museum of Art Press Release
http://www.philamuseum.org/information/pr/010828a.shtml


Penn State U
http://homecoming.psu.edu/2004/Listserv/archive/006_2004_10_13.htm

Temple University/Ambler Campus
http://www.temple.edu/ambler/news/0405releases/77-blackhistorymonth.htm

Caribbean Festival/Press Release
http://www.irconnect.com/penn/pages/news_releases.html?d=61846

NJ Aquariaum
http://www.njaquarium.org/marketing/season.php3

Berman Museum/Ursinus College
http://198.17.40.106/content.asp?page=WhatMakesUCSpecial/Berman2002Exhibits.htm

Association For Women in Psychology Annual Feminist Psychology Conference
http://www.webmavens.org/awp2004/info.htm

Philadelphia Weekly
http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/view.php?id=7662

United States Conference on AIDS/Philadelphia, PA
http://www.beingalivela.org/news1204/bart-1204-USCOA.html

Bowling Green State U
http://www.bgsu.edu/colleges/as/ecap/ecaprojects.htm

Speakers Bureau
http://creativefolk.com/blackhistory/blackhistoryspeakers.html

Feminist Expo 2000
http://www.feminist.org/expo2000/gen.Assblyfinal.pdf.

Home Educators Association of VA
http://www.heav.org/resources/heavupdate/2004/hu20040607.htm

City Paper/Phila
http://www.citypaper.net/articles/2004-09-02/cover10.shtml
- Reviews on the Web


Discography

Still working on that hot first release.

Photos

Bio

The Music
This internationally acclaimed Ensemble presents a complete and unique experience of a cappella harmonies and traditional West African percussive rhythms. They are a vivacious, all-women performing arts ensemble and have performed to standing ovations at the Women & Earth Conference, Ghana, West Africa, The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., the National Women's Music Festival and many other venues throughout the country and abroad. The “Voices Of Africa,” share the joy of their music, which spans the African Diaspora, through traditional African and African-American songs, message music, gospel and inspirational percussive rhythms. They have been together since 1990.

The Instruments: “We are Women & We Play Drums.”
The traditional West African percussion instruments the Ensemble plays are; Sakara (sah’ kah rah), hand held frame drums; the Sekere (shay’ ka ray), beaded gourds; agogo (ah goe goe), double headed bells, and Sangba drums found in Ghana and Nigeria.

The Ensemble
Nana Baakan Agyiriwah (Founder and Managing Director) has been singing, dancing, acting and performing since her youth. She is a choreographer, educator, percussionist and lyricist,. She is a singer, percussionist, poet, songwriter, and excellent photographer.

Featured Members Are:

Adwoa Tacheampong, Pioneer. An accomplished percussionist who plays several West African and Brazilian instruments. She is also a singer, lyricist, and dancer.

Jan Jeffries, Rhythm Speaker. Is unrivaled as a consummate percussionist. Jeffries, a long time resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, hails from Philadelphia, where she began her career of dancing and drumming at the prestigious Sydney School of Dance.

Thea Bashful. Performed as a dancer, back up vocalist and lead vocalist in a litany of performances. She is also credited for songwriting and vocal performances since 1987.Pre-Professional Training: Deirdre Jefferson Robertson School of Dance - New Orleans, LA St. Mary’s Academy – New Orleans, LA New Orleans School of the Arts - New Orleans, LA
Ballet Hysell - New Orleans, LA, Alvin Ailey American Dance Center - New York, NY

Kimberly Logan. Born in Mandeville, Manchester (Jamaica) to actress/producer/humanitarian Ericka Wilson and environmental engineer Courtnie Logan, Kim has always had a taste for the spotlight. Living in the country of one love, Kimberly learned the potency of music by listening to artists like Madonna, Bob Marley, Garnet Silk, and so on.

Amina Uqdah: Began dancing at the impressionable age of three. Being too poor to afford proper training, she taught herself the basics of modern and jazz by watching PBS specials, VH1 dance movies, and dance documentaries. Present day Amina is a principal dancer for Free Theater Productions, modern dance teacher for Chosen Generation Worship Centers dance team, and choreographer for Precise Fashion Entertainment Organization. She will continue to study and perform with a burning passion for the arts.

Adriene Hall-Cedeño: is a native of Atlanta, GA. She has been performing for 15 years and teaching professionally for 12 years. Adrienne is primarily trained in modern, West African, and Afro-Brazilian dance but is also skilled in ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop. Adrienne has studied and performed in China, West Africa, South Africa, Cuba, Brazil and Holland.

Gina Ferrera: Gina Ferrera began studying rudimentary drumming at the age of ten. While pursuing a degree in video/audio production, she was introduced to ancient African music. For the past eight years Gina has studied world-music and "ethno-musicology in New York City, Philadelphia, and made two independent research trips to Ghana to study gyil (xylophone) with Kakraba Lobi, Bernard Woma, and Valerie Naranjo.

The Concert Program
“When we perform the spirit may starts moving,” says Nana Agyiriwah. There is no predicting what will happen when the Ensemble takes the stage You are assured of a thrilling and engaging presentation of soul-stirring and uplifting music. The Ensemble stresses that in traditional African Society, everyone actively participates in the making of music. It is not just entertainment but interaction between musician and the community. A proverb from Zimbabwe states: “If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing.” This openly invites everyone. Feel free to dance, clap and enjoy the powerful music of the "Voices Of Africa."