African Dance Finale Wraps up Black History Month Events


Rebecca Kister/San Jacinto Times

Members of Saakumu Dance Troupe invite spectators to learn traditional African dances during their performance Feb. 27 on the Central Campus.

The sounds of traditional and contemporary African dances capped off a series of Black History Month activities at San Jacinto College Central Campus on Feb. 27 with a finale performance featuring returning favorites, Saakumu Dance Troupe. The Troupe originates from Ghana, West Africa and performs around the world.

Saakumu means “traditions,” according to the Troupe’s leader Bernard Woma. Their African dance, native to Ghana and western Africa, is “based upon spoken language and is the idea of communication through movements and sounds that represent emotion, beliefs, and ideals,” he said.

During the hour-long performance, they described how each instrument, like the xylophone-looking Balafon, is made by hand. The Balafon is manufactured from wooden planks that are loosely bound by a string and placed over gourds, from smallest to largest. The sound is produced by hitting it with mallets.

As part of their repertoire, the group performed a popular western Ghanaian song titled Bamaya, which means “the river valley is wet.” The song, like others, evolved from a story that was passed down from previous generations.

During the performance, the Troupe delighted audience members by teaching them some of the performance steps and inviting them to participate.

“The dancing was my favorite part because they taught us new moves,” student Angelica Ramirez said.

Meanwhile, Central Campus Student Engagement and Activities (SEA) Specialist Samantha De La Rosa, noted she was part of the effort to bring the Troupe back to San Jac for a fourth time because of how much she appreciated their performance when she saw it as a student.

“My favorite thing about The Saakumu Dance Troupe is the authenticity of the performances and how unique their instruments and attire is for each of their songs,” De La Rosa said.

Amanda Rose, SEA coordinator for the Central Campus, first contacted the Troupe in 2012 to be part of the College’s Black History Month events and continues to invite them back every couple of years adding, “their performance is engaging and educational.”

“My favorite part about the troupe,” Rose said, “is the energy they have and their interaction with the crowd.”