by David Rogers
from Jumbie Journal, July 2006
NEW YORK – Jumbie Records once again played host this spring to the only American festival of new and traditional xylophone music from across the African continent. We were delighted to welcome many new and old friends and xylo-jumbies who gathered in New York for 3 days of music, workshops, and masterclasses. "AXF2: African Xylophone Festival #2" was produced by Jumbie Records with the support of the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia University, Columbia University Arts Initiative, and the 92nd Street Y.
This year's program encompassed an even broader variety of African xylophones. New instruments included the timbila of Mozambique, the spirited namaddu (tuned drums) of Uganda, and the metallic budongo of East Africa joining the program along last year’s line-up of the spider-webbed gyil of Ghana, the balafon of the Mali empire, and the resonant embaire of Uganda.
A special children’s concert was added at Columbia University, which sold out to standing-room-only in the Philosophy Hall. It featured spectacular performances by the St. Ann’s African Xylophone Ensemble of Brooklyn (under the direction of Susie Sokol and Bernard Woma), and A NeNe Wofa (led by Famoro Dioubate). We’ve heard from other student groups studying African xylophones in the Midwest, and are hoping to expand this concert next time.
Our educational programming was expanded as well, to encompass three levels of students in three different teaching formats – a children’s workshop, two adult beginner’s workshops, and two masterclasses for experienced performers on the gyil and the balafon.
The festival’s two evening concerts at Makor featured leading international and U.S. artists presenting traditional African music for ceremonies, funerals, and village festivals – as well as innovative new compositions that combine African xylophones with jazz, American fiddling, and Hungarian folk music. New artists at this year’s festival included Valerie Naranjo & Barry Olsen, Biakuye Unity Ensemble, A NeNe Wofa, and Nora Balaban’s Timbila Project. The festival concluded with a rousing premier of a new arrangement of Bernard Woma’s “Gyil Nyog Me Na”, scored by David Rogers for the Jumbie Festival Orchestra.
Thank you to everyone who helped make AXF2 a thrilling weekend of music. We look forward to seeing you all at the next African Xylophone Festival!
packing up and heading home...