International music celebrated at World Music and Latin Jazz concerts

Students at Oakland University came together this past weekend to learn about and listen to music from different parts of the world.

The World Music Concert on Friday, Nov. 30 shared music from East Africa, and the Latin Jazz Concert on Saturday, Dec. 1 shared music from the Caribbean and United States.

“It’s an opportunity to learn about music and to experience something of a culture from another part of the world that many students might not have previously experienced,” said Mark Stone, ensemble director and associate professor of world music and percussion at Oakland University. 

Regina Carter, a renowned jazz violinist, was featured throughout both of these concerts. Carter is also an OU alumnus who earned her bachelor’s degree in music in 1985. She has been an artist-in-residence in the School of Music Theatre and Dance for OU for the past ten years.

“I really love coming back to OU performing,” Carter said. “I had a really rich education when I was a here as a student. My big band teacher back then would bring in a lot of guest artists from Detroit to work with us. So, for me, I’m trying to carry on that tradition and come back and work with the students as well. The students are really enthusiastic, really talented and really work hard.”

The World Music concert also featured James Isabirye, a current Ph.D. student from Uganda. He has shared some of his traditions from Uganda with OU students over the past two years.

“As a doctoral student at Oakland University, he not only learned through his doctoral degree, but he also had an opportunity to share his knowledge of Ugandan music with our students,” Stone said. “And then, of course, at the concert, he had the opportunity to share his music with a wider audience.”

During the World Music Concert, the Akwaaba African Ensemble and Ngoma World Percussion Ensemble performed traditional Ugandan songs from the kingdoms of Buganda and Busoga, as well as traditional music from Ugandan villages and songs Stone encountered in his own research on the country.

The performance included traditional Ugandan instruments such as the embaire xylophone, tamenhaibuga drums, bigwala trumpets of the Busoga kingdom and the entenga drums of the Buganda kingdom.

During the Latin Jazz Concert, the OU Jazz Band, Pan-Jumbies Steel Band and Ngoma World Percussion Ensemble featured Carter and Miguel Gutierrez, a Latin percussionist from metro Detroit.

For the first half of the program, the Pan-Jumbies Steel Band performed compositions from Cuba arranged by Patrick Fitzgibbon featuring Carter and Gutierrez. The performance also featured “Rio Roja,” an original piece written specifically for the concert by OU faculty member Terry Herald.

“I’m playing with the Steel Band Ensemble and their professor wrote some arrangements on some tunes I had recorded some years back, some Latin tunes, which is fun to hear on steel pans,” Carter said before the performance. “For the big band, the whole thing is Latin music. It’s nice to be able to perform some tunes I know and some tunes that are new for me, and also to have the chorus involved in a couple tunes.”

The World Music and Jazz Concerts have been performed toward the end of every semester since Marvin “Doc” Holladay started these programs in 1972. The students work for the entire semester to prepare for these concerts.

“At the end of the day, these concerts are successful because of the incredible work of our students,” Stone said. “These concerts are about our students, and they did a wonderful job and they worked hard all semester to make the program a success.”