UCM professor promotes West African culture at Mizzou

Written by Muleskinner Staff


A professor from the University of Central Missouri provided more than 10 instruments for a performance by Ghanaian musician and dancer Nani Agbeli at the University of Missouri–Columbia.

Allison Robbins, an assistant professor in the music department at UCM, said she hopes to build unity between the two universities.

“I hope working together will help aid and spread awareness for culture in the community,” Robbins said.

Robbins supplied a total of eight drums along with a variety of different bells and shakers for the performance which took place April 14 at Missouri Theatre in Columbia, Missouri.

The concert featured performances from Mizzou’s Tiger Pans, Chiyedza Mbira Ensemble and Lee Elementary’s drumming ensemble. The concert ended with an electric performance from Agbeli.

Agbeli, director of Ghanaian West African music, dance and arts at The Herb Alpert School of Music at the California Institute of the Arts, said his mission is to create awareness for the Ghanaian dance scene.

“I’m sort of a cultural ambassador,” Agbeli said. “I want to continue where my ancestors left off and educate as many people as possible.”

After the show, Agbeli invited the audience to join him in a closing dance.

Megan Arns, assistant teaching professor of percussion at the University of Missouri, said Mizzou has been working to educate the public while preserving musical traditions.

“We live in that central, less diverse area where this is a lot of culture to be explored,” Arns said. “I think the performances are a wonderful way to be exposed to other traditions.”

Arns said Ghanaian music belongs to the culture and bringing Agbeli to Missouri gives students a chance to see how the music is supposed to be performed.

“Writing down music kills the tradition and it is not the intended way the music is supposed to consumed,” Arns said. “The performances keep the tradition alive and allow students to hear the songs firsthand over a recording.”

Robbins said she hopes to form a West African drumming ensemble at UCM in the fall of 2018.