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Akwaaba: Ghanian Dance

Posted Aug. 20, 2012, at 2:10 p.m.
Last modified Aug. 21, 2012, at 11:22 a.m.

Energized drumming and dancing blended with Highlife music of Ghana makes Akwaaba unique. The Akwaaba Traditional African Drum and Dance Ensemble was formed by Theo Nii Martey during a tour with Brekete Ensemble in London. It brings together a group of friends who have been drumming and dancing together for many years in Ghana and the United Kingdom. The group includes past members of the National Dance Ensemble, Brekete Ensemble and the Shidaa cultural troupe.

The Akwaaba Ensemble’s energetic and engaging performances are a reflection of their name, which means “welcome” in the Twi language of the Ashanti tribe of Ghana. At each performance, Akwaaba brings Highlife music, West African drumming and dance to life.

Audiences agree that their performances are, “overwhelmingly positive. Once you hear their music, you can’t resist to move.”

Each Ensemble member teaches and leads workshops. Together, they have connected with students at dozens of schools around the globe. Parents and teachers praise their work: “These guys are energetic, enthusiastic. They’re really knowledgeable about what they are doing, and they seem to really enjoy working with kids.”

For the past 10 years, Akwaaba has toured internationally and performed on many stages in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Canada, Ireland and the United States. Akwaaba performs at theaters, fairs, festivals, churches, weddings, school settings, and drumming and dancing workshops in the community. The ensemble also often collaborates with other musicians. The group’s goal is to produce extraordinary music and great performances that enlighten the audience about African culture and music. They dubbed their first album “Akwaaba Welcome Home” in 2008, and they are working on their new album, “Jei Elaaje Wo,” which will be released in April 2012.

This isn’t Akwaaba’s first time in Maine. In 2009, the ensemble appeared in the Bethel area.

“Theo and the Akwaaba Ensemble gave a performance that warmed up the audience despite a blinding snowstorm in Bethel,” said Mahoosuc Arts Council’s then-Interim Director Linda Gamble in a testimonial for the group. “Akwaaba gives the audience a unique look into the world of music and dance of Ghana that is both enlightening and energetic.”

While in Bethel for its public performance, Akwaaba visited four area schools to lead lectures and demonstrations, question-and-answer sessions, and workshops.

Akwaaba’s appearance at the American Folk Festival is funded in part by the New England States Touring program of the New England Foundation for the Arts, made possible with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts Regional Touring Program and the six New England state arts agencies.

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