In Africa, drum and dance are two things that are used to bring the community together, celebrate life, or create an atmosphere in the village.
Sankofa is The College at Brockport’s African drum and dance ensemble. They strive to recreate that same atmosphere and energy on the college campus.
The ensemble has a show every year in May, but during the rest of the semester they perform at events on campus and travel all over the Rochester area to perform.
African dance is high energy and communal, and Sankofa tries to bring that culture to Brockport’s campus. They also bring many different cultural aspects in their dances and performances ranging from Caribbean folk dances to Brazillian Capoeira.
Although the musicians are overlooked, they play a huge role in traditional African dance. Drumming takes just as much energy and effort as dancing does, sometimes more.
Khalid Abdul N’Faly Saleem is Sankofa’s music director and head drummer. Saleem has been drumming professionally for 60 years.
“I always explain the music and dance as a functional marriage. In Africa music and dance, the music is the foundation. Music is the rhythm whether you’re using body percussion vocal or whatsoever,” Saleem said.
The musicians goal while drumming is to keep the rhythm and tempo while people dance, but they also have to help keep the energy levels high. If there were no musicians, the energy and atmosphere wouldn’t be as fun and entertaining. Due to this this the dancers and drummers must work together.
Keiasha Wolfe enjoys sharing her energy with the crowd and finds new ways to get them involved.
“I am Sankofa’s hype man. I love interacting with everyone, especially the audience. Traditional African dance is all about community and spreading the love and peace throughout it,” Wolfe says.
“If you’re energy is dead then the crowds energy is going to be dead too. We’re supposed to build each other up and get crazy altogether. Sankofa means family,” Wolfe said.
Sankofa’s African Drum and Dance Ensemble is a welcoming family that is always accepting new members.