As one of the half-credit classes at Bowdoin, the World Music Ensemble has had more performances and put more work into its drumming than the work required for some full-credit classes at the College. It is probably also the only half-credit class with connections to Dizzy Gillespie and Tito Puente. These students have danced and added their rhythms to Chamber Choir performances in the Chapel, and also held a few concerts of their own. Now, the group has learned techniques, beats and dances from the masters and from the source: Talking Drums, led by Abraham Adzenyah and Helen Mensah.

Talking Drums, an ensemble based in Middletown, Connecticut, specializes in African music and dance, usually deriving from ceremonies of mourning, festival celebrations, work, and rituals. The dances also come from daily routines, which the dancers interpret as a response to gourds, bells, and, of course, drums.

Talking Drums is not only the name of the ensemble, but also the name for the drums that the group uses. They are able to imitate the rhythm and intonation of speech, so as a guitar can wail, these drums can talk. Usually, they are hourglass-shaped pressure drums, with tops made from hide or fish skin. Also, when the drummer squeezes the leather cords or thongs that run down the side of the drum, his movement tightens the top and changes the pitch of the instrument, providing the different voices.

Adzenyah and Mensah both teach at Wesleyan, in the same town where Talking Drums is based. Before coming to Wesleyan, Adzenyah, a Ghanian master drummer, had taught for over 30 years. Because of his expertise and experience, Adzenyah attracted the interest of many American jazz musicians, giving him the opportunity to perform with Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, and Tito Puente. Since much of jazz music is rooted in African traditional music, it makes sense that Adzenyah's music fits well.

About the students he has taught in the past, Adzenyah said, "I teach them how to coordinate their bodies and their mind, and also to be relaxed?you know, forget about their business and all their stress?in here they use their whole body and it helps refresh their brains."

Mensah also focuses on teaching the students body and mind coordination, introducing them to the traditional African dance that follows the drumbeats. Mensah, a member of the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, is considered a world authority on African dance. Led by Bowdoin's own Robert Greenlee, the World Music Ensemble is in good hands.

The performance will be in Morrell Lounge, Smith Union, on April 10th at 3 pm.

Quote by Adzenyah taken from an interview with Preview Connecticut magazine's John Adamian, December 2003.