Music from around the world

On Friday, music from Africa and the Caribbean will fill Varner Hall.

The Oakland University World Music Concert is at 8 p.m. on March 25. The concert features music from Ghana, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and the United States.

The concert emphasizes not only the types of music played in these countries, but also the instrumentation used for each Akwaaba, an African drum and xylophone ensemble, is one of the groups performing at the concert. Others include Ngoma, Pan-Jazz and Pan-Jumbies, a steel drum ensemble.

Mark Stone, the coordinator of World Music at OU, has helped to build the program since he came to the university in 1998.

The African drum ensemble was created in the 1970s; the other ensembles are newer.

“I’ve continued that tradition and started to expand it among these other cultures,” Stone said. “It’s not just students learning about African music and culture, but now also the music and culture of the Caribbean.”

Stone has studied African music for a number of years, including his time at Makerere University in Uganda. He has also performed as a part of the Bernard Woma Ensemble at the Filmua Kukur Bagr Festival in Ghana and with the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall.

In addition to currently leading the Biakuye Percussion Group and the Southpaw Isle Steelband, Stone teaches at OU.

In 2007, Amanda Krajenke took a Music 132 course entitled Music of World Cultures with Stone. Prior to taking the class, Krajenke intended to become a vocal music major, but has since switched to a bachelor of arts in music, which is a more general study.

She is also pursuing a World Music minor.

“In Mark Stone’s classes, everyone is encouraged to get hands-on with all of the instruments,” Krajenke said. “We all get to try a little bit of everything, but generally in the end we find we have a preference and play one particular instrument for most songs on the concert. I play the bass pans.”

The bass pans are made up of six 55-gallon oil drums arranged in a U-shape. The musician stands in the middle and plays the oil drums, each of which is tuned to three pitches.

Krajenke has been a member of each of the world music ensembles offered at OU and has focused significant attention on the steel band, performing as a “Pan-Jumbie” since her freshman year.

Although the concert is a showcase of world music, some American songs have found their way into the program as well. Stone said compositions by Stevie Wonder and some other popular American songs have been arranged for the Caribbean and African instruments.

“A lot of the music we have here in America borrows from these cultures,” Stone said.

Krajenke said she thinks this familiarity that people may have with some of the musical traditions -— whether they realize it or not — will add to the concert experience for the audience on Friday.

“You will probably hear something you know,” Krajenke said. “There are a few pieces that the ensembles will be playing that will make you smile.”

In addition to the student ensembles, guest artist Sulley Imoro will perform during the concert. Stone cites Imoro as the most well-known dancer in Ghana.

Imoro performs in the Dagomba tradition, which comes from the people of Northern Ghana.

Stone said the concert is a learning opportunity for students beyond just the entertainment value.

“It’s very important to expose students to music they might not otherwise hear,” Stone said. “The concert is a lot of fun and the music really elicits participation so people are learning while they’re having fun.”

Tickets for the concert are $11 for the general public and $7 for students.

Through the music, Krajenke hopes the OU community will see that though the African and Caribbean cultures are different from American culture, they share fundamental characteristics.

“Yes, we’re all different and we may have different methods and traditions and values, but we’re all as humans out there trying to answer the same questions: Who are we and how do we express ourselves?” Krajenke said. “We are people and we dance, sing, play music, laugh, cry and love. When I see these similarities, I find the differences to be insignificant. I hope that the audience at this concert finds that there is such amazing joy in this music and that they leave carrying that joy home.”