Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble welcomes guest artist

By on April 22, 2019
Mohamed Diaby. Provided photo

Mohamed Diaby. Provided photo

The College at Brockport’s Department of Dance will present the Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble in performances to take place Thursday through Saturday, May 2 through 4, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m., in the Hartwell Dance Theater in Hartwell Hall, Kenyon Street, on the Brockport campus. Tickets are $17 general, $12 for senior citizens, Brockport alumni, faculty and staff, $9 for students, and are available online at http://fineartstix.brockport.edu, by phone at 395-2787, or at the Tower Fine Arts Center Box Office, 180 Holley Street, Brockport.

The department is making an effort to meet demand from the community to see their often sold-out dance concerts. They have instituted Community Previews, for which there will be 100 tickets available for $5 each (by the means listed above) for many of their performances. The Sankofa preview will take place on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. (These showings will not qualify for required student attendance.)

This year, the Sankofa concerts will feature drummer and chorographer Mohamed Diaby, an acclaimed musician from Guinea, West Africa. For Sankofa, he has set a dance on Brockport’s dancers, who have embraced his artistry. Diaby began playing the djembe at age seven, under the supervision of his elder brother. By 15, he was asked to join a group sponsored by the wife of Guinea’s president. Encouraged to continue by world famous djembefola, Mamady Keita, Diaby joined Africa Djole. He later joined Les Merveilles de Guinea as lead drummer, touring all over West Africa. While still away from home, Kemoko Sano, artistic director of the world-renowned troupe Les Ballet Africains, approached Diaby’s father saying, “When your son returns, I want him to join my group because I love his drumming!!”

Another of Sankofa’s international guest artists, Kieron Sargeant, has created “Caribbean Suite” for the concert. Sargeant describes the piece as a “combination of folk dances from various Caribbean countries that have both persevered and morphed through the years, be it due to the Atlantic slave trade, colonialism, or even indigenous dances from the country.”

Trinidadian musician Ian Anthony will also be on hand, “helping to mesh the arts of the islands with those of the African continent, forging an Afro-Caribbean celebration,” according to Jenise Akilah Anthony, artistic director of the Sankofa troupe.

Anthony also explained that “the word ‘Sankofa,’ loosely translated, means that you cannot go forward without looking back. None of us would be able to go forward in the world of African dance, without recollecting our roots and history,” a sentiment echoed by Sankofa’s musical director and master drummer, Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem. Anthony also added that they would be unable to bring the Sankofa concerts to life “without paying tribute to the late, great Baba Chuck Davis, America’s foremost master of African dance. Amongst his other achievements, he founded the DanceAfrica Festival, which has been in existence for more than 40 years.”

In addition to premiering a new work, “Sorsonet,” Anthony will also be reviving “Sinte,” a joyful, ebullient finale for a most colorful, vibrant concert.

The Sankofa concerts often sell out prior to the first performance taking place. If that is not the case, any unsold tickets will be available for purchase at the Hartwell Box Office one hour prior to each performance.

Provided information

The Sankofa troupe performing “Sinte.” Photo by Anthony Littlejohn.

The Sankofa troupe performing “Sinte.” Photo by Anthony Littlejohn.