Congolese Drum and Dance Conference
This weekend was really fun. My legs are tired, knees more than a little sore, but it was well worth the effort, so many wonderful musicians and artists under one roof at the same time for our edification. I remarked to one teacher, Biza Sompa, that I was surprised that none of the teachers duplicated each other's choreography --from Titos Sompa his elder brother, the man responsible for Congolese dance in this country, to Sister Odile Wanuke, Jean-Armel Mampouya, and Patrice Mbayero.
There's something healing about the rhythms of Africa, African music, and African people playing this music, singing the songs.
I didn't like the imposition of western cultural restraints on what was supposed to be fun. The bossy attitudes and the insistence on lines, was so out of context...in Africa we would have been in a circle not a line, and the ridiculous arms bands for each class, especially for those of us who'd paid for multiple classes -- I had to go stand in long lines after each class for a different colored band.
It was more than a little annoying, especially when one person told me one thing and then someone else told me something different. I was well-- why can't the customer be right or at least get the band for me, since you want me to have it so badly.
Biza and Jean and Odile's attitudes were so cool, I couldn't stay annoyed once the music started, and the woman who was so intent on straight lines did such a great warm-up on Friday and Sunday, as Tupac said in one of his songs: I couldn't stay made at her.
This conference was the best advertisement for on-going classes at the Malonga Center, 1428 Alice Street, Oakland, dedicated to the late master drummer and dancer, Malonga Casquelourd, a student of Papa Sompa -- killed in a tragic car accident by a drunk driver.
Tuesday evenings, 7-8:30 p.m., there is a class; and Sunday at 12 noon-1:30 Mbayero has a class; which is followed at 2 p.m. by Portsha Jefferson's Haitian Dance Class. I think this had to be one of my favorites this week; the dance we performed one of resistance.
There will be Congolese Dance & Drum Camp in July in California and an African Renaissance Celebration in Michigan June 22 to July 2 or 3. For information about the classes, conferences and workshops, contact: LaKiesha@excite.com.