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Arts & Entertainment

Kittredge Theatre Hosts Performances of African and Southeast Asian Music and Dance

by Mariah Parker, Multimedia Editor

Kevin Kehrberg’s Indonesian Gamelan Ensemble class joined the Evergreen Charter School Marimba Ensemble and La’ney West African Dance Company for a showcase of world music and dance Dec. 4.

Also joining the performance was sociology/anthropology professor Siti Kusujiarti, for whom Gamelan has deep personal meaning.

“In the culture where I come from, music and dancing are a part of everyday life, which is hard to express in this cultural context,” said Kusujiarti, a native of central Java.

Gamelan is a chamber-style ensemble of instruments that originates in the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. Built and tuned to stay together, the ensemble consists mainly of gongs and metal key instruments. The Warren Wilson ensemble is a Sundanese, or western Java, style Gamelan.

“It’s such a foreign sound to people’s ears. The gongs have a deep bass tone, and it creates a very resonant sound,” said Kehrberg. “The bells have a warm timbre, and when they’re played together, it can have a meditative quality.”

After an enormous turnout at the ensemble’s performance in April, Kehrberg decided to arrange another performance this fall. This time, he called in Evergreen Charter School’s Sue Ford and African dance instructor Nadirah Rahman to add some flavor.

Music teacher Sue Ford has led the Evergreen Charter School’s Zimbabwean marimba ensemble since its inception eight years ago. Each marimba in their 10 to 15 person ensemble is built to play in a different register.

“They’re kind of like the violin family in an orchestra,” Kehrberg explains. “There are bass, baritone, and tenor marimbas; there’s even a big bass marimba that stands five and a half feet off the ground that the player has to stand on stool to reach. They’re similar, but each instrument plays a different part.”

Also performing is Asheville’s La’Ney West African Dance Company under the direction of Nadirah Rahman. Rahman teaches dance in Buncombe County high schools and started La’Ney to provide Asheville with authentic African dance experiences.

“This style of dance is often misrepresented,” Kehberg said. “[La’Ney] performs traditional African dance in an accurate representation.”

In addition to Sunday’s showcase, the La’Ney group has also performed at Asheville’s Goombay festival.

Kehrberg and Kusujiarti hope that the performances will inspire continued interest in world music and dance.

“When we can expose people to world music in a live performance setting … it’s more effective,” said Kehrberg. “The experiences I’ve had like that of my own really helped form my interest. They’re pretty inspiring moments for me.”

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