SANKOFA - Vanderbilt's African Drum and Dance Ensemble with Kwame Ahima as director. (Jenny Mandeville/Vanderbilt University)

Ensemble Director: Gyane Kwame Ahima

Vanderbilt's African Drum and Dance Ensemble

Sankofa is Vanderbilt University's West African drumming and dance class as well as performing ensemble. The group performs traditional songs and dances from Ghana, West Africa.

An Akan term, Sankofa means "return and retrieve" -- that is, one must return to the past, to one's roots, in order to move forward. Sankofa is typically represented by a bird whose head faces the opposite direction of its body, looking toward the future while still firmly rooted in the past.

As part of Blair's music program, African music is taught through oral tradition, although some written materials are available from time to time. Students are encouraged to use their memory in retaining the rhythms, songs and folklore presented.

The course provides a laboratory and performance experience, drawing on traditional African musical instruments with an emphasis on West African (Ghana) music and dance repertories. The instruments that support this leaning experience principally include drums and other assorted percussion instruments. The course structure includes both lecture-demonstrations and rehearsal in one intensive two-hour session each week.

The group performs at the Blair School of Music and around the Nashville community. For more information about Sankofa performances or if you would like Sankofa to perform at your event, contact Gyane Kwame Ahima.