Musicians to Converge on Maui for Congolese Music Camp
By Vanessa Wolf
Beginning this Friday, Feb. 14 through Monday, Feb. 24 participants from around the world will come together for a unique residential arts intensive exploring the beauty of Central African music, dance, culture, cuisine and hospitality through daily classes.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the Congolese Dance & Drum Workshop, which began as annual event in the Sierra Foothills of Northern California in 1979, and extended its reach to Maui in 1996.
Among the offerings, Matsinu (dance) classes explore the rich movement traditions of Central Africa and are held twice daily for two hours per session, once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. The classes are open to all levels and are accompanied by live drumming and percussion.
Three levels of ngoma (drum) instruction are given twice each day. Instruction in small groups builds from basic drum sounds and rhythms to a full consistent vocabulary. The advanced level combines various rhythms into a composition, within a steady bell pattern.
The Kisansi (traditional thumb piano) is an instrument known by many names throughout Africa. “Often associated with healers and griots, participants can explore the soothing melodies of this ancient instrument” each afternoon.
Lastly, nzembo (song) classes are offered each afternoon. Learn traditional songs, call and response and original compositions that accompany ritual rhythms and movement.
If questions remain, you may be pleased to learn organizer Muisi-kongo Malonga took a break from planning the event to answer some questions about the upcoming intensive.
Maui Now: For people interested in the 10-day Congolese dance and drum workshop: do attendees need to already be familiar with the art form, own their own drums, etc.?
Muisi-kongo Malonga: The Congolese Dance & Drum Workshop welcomes all walks of life and all levels to participate in the workshop. From first-timers to seasoned dancers and drummers, all are invited to experience the healing power of traditional Congolese culture. Though it is best for participants to bring their own instruments, more often than not, there are drums and other instruments available to borrow or rent.
MN: What makes Congolese/Central African dancing and drumming unique?
MM: People who experience Congolese dance and drumming for the first time often express feeling a deeper connection to the earth and to spirit. Congolese movements are grounded and Congolese rhythms are deep, soul-stirring and based in ritual allowing for mind, body and spirit to align through these powerful ancient art forms.
The Congo’s influence on music, dance and culture throughout the world is immeasurable. Cultural traditions in Brazil, Cuba, Haiti and other nations throughout the Caribbean and the Americas are undoubtedly tributaries of the Congo’s cultural wellspring. If you have experienced the music and dance of these places, you have without question experienced the Congo.
MN: Who leads the workshops?
MM: The 2014 Congolese Dance & Drum Workshop is presented by Fua Dia Congo, a performing arts organization founded in 1977 by the late world-renowned master artist and cultural arts pioneer, Malonga Casquelourd. This annual tradition features an amazing staff of Congolese master artists who lead instruction in Congolese music, dance, percussion and various traditional Congolese instruments. These amazing instructors come from all over the world and converge on the island of Maui, representing the very best of traditional Congolese culture.
MN: Could someone who attended for the entire 10 days anticipate being able to play the drum (somewhat?) at the end of that time or is that a reach?
MM: The Congolese Dance & Drum Workshop is a one of a kind music, dance and cultural arts intensive that gives all participants the rare chance to deepen their understanding and appreciation of Congolese cultural art forms. By participating in the many facets of Congolese culture (i.e. music, dance, food, hospitality etc), participants gain a deeper and more holistic awareness. Anyone who attends the workshop for the full 10 days will leave with a great deal of applicable knowledge that will propel them leaps and bounds ahead in their continued study of the art form.
MN: You mention Central African cuisine will be explored along with music and dance. What kind of food can attendees expect?
MM: The food at the Congolese Dance & Drum Workshop is arguably a greater draw than the amazing daily class offering. Mouth-watering vegetarian, western and traditional Congolese cuisine are prepared daily by our talented chefs.
MN: There are drop-in opportunities to kama’aina. How does that work and how do people sign up if they can’t make the whole workshop?
MM: Kama’aina (w/proof of local address) are welcome to drop-in for the day or for individual classes throughout the workshop. To participate for a full day at the workshop, the cost is $100/day (covering meals, classes and accommodations). To take individual classes the cost is $20/class. 5-Class and 10-Class passes are also available for purchase for additional savings. The individual class and class pass purchase options are only open to kama’aina (w/proof of local address), all others wishing to participate must register at the daily rate.
The Congolese Dance & Drum Workshop in Maui is held at the YMCA’s Camp Keanae — 13375 Hana Hwy.
In addition, on Saturday, Feb. 22, the community is invited to join for “Kimvuka (The Gathering),” a Congolese cultural celebration featuring spirited performances by world-renowned Fua Dia Congo performing arts company, international guest artists, CDDW 2014 participants & the power and magic of ngoma drumming.
The celebration begins at 8 p.m. and admission is $20.
Workshop tuition info for residential participants and special drop-in discounts for kama’aina (with proof of local residency) are available online.