West African music takes summit's center stage

Thiossane West African Dance Institute, along with CityMusic Columbus and the King Arts Complex, will present the inaugural World Music Summit Nov. 14-17.

The summit will include drum orchestra and dance performances, as well as workshops and panel discussions. The focus of this inaugural event is the music of West Africa.

The four-day summit began as a concept for Thiossane co-founder and Creative Director Suzan Bradford Kounta to honor the memory of her husband, Abdou Kounta, who died in 2011.

"My husband was a traditional Senegalese musician, involved in West African drumming," Bradford Kounta told The Beat.

"His family is from the Griot tradition of musicians and storytellers who pass those traditions down through the generations. I wanted to have a concert that celebrated his legacy."

A conversation between Bradford Kounta and CityMusic Executive Director Heidi Howes, whose organization has presented a wide variety of world-music concerts in its nearly 30-year history, helped bring the summit into clearer view.

"CityMusic is very excited to collaborate for the first time with the Thiossane Institute and we look forward to growing the World Music Summit for years to come," Howes told The Beat.

The performances will feature ensembles performing on three different kinds of West African drums: the djembe, sabar and kutiro. The djembe originated in Mali, the other two in Senegal, but both became widely used throughout Africa.

The Thiossane dance company will perform as well, although Bradford Kounta was quick to explain that "the dance will be an accompaniment to the music, and not the other way around, as you usually see."

The panel discussions will focus on the ethnomusicology of these West African forms, Bradford Kounta said, allowing audiences to both hear and talk about traditional West African music and its influence on other kinds of music. The Thursday panel discussion at the King Arts Complex will include the opportunity to view the "Akwabaa" exhibition of West African art currently on display there. The Saturday panel discussion will be held in conjunction with the 7:30 p.m. concert at the Lincoln Theatre.

Heightening the participatory aspect of the summit will be a pair of workshops, both in drumming and dancing, the afternoon of Nov. 17 in the Lincoln Theatre Ballroom.