Damm's African Musical Journey to celebrate world rhythms

September 1, 2012 7:19:35 PM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Dr. Robert Damm's musical travels have taken him to far corners -- to Mali, Ghana and other distant locales, where he discovered new ways of making music through improvisation, indigenous rhythms and world tradition.  


Those influences will be shared Sunday, Sept. 9, at 3 p.m., when the Mississippi State University professor of music presents "An African Musical Journey" in MSU's McComas Theater on the Starkville campus. The free recital supports the Maroon Edition communal reading project of "Unbowed," by Wangari Maathi, and will celebrate the music of Africa, which is the book's setting. 


"The book was one of the reasons I'm doing the recital, and I wanted to share with the community something of my recent experience in Mali during a three-month sabbatical," stated Damm. As MSU's faculty advisor to African students, he also answers to the name that group gave him -- Babatunde, "father who has come back to us" in the Yoruba language of West Africa. 


The well-known percussionist, who is also MSU's director of music education partnerships, will be joined in the program by a frequent collaborator, University of Mississippi Professor of Percussion Ricky Burkhead. Dr. Stephen Middleton, MSU professor of history and director of the MSU African-American Studies program, will narrate. 


The MSU African Student Association will present two traditional songs and dances from Ghana. 


Kayla Gilmore, founder and executive director of KMG Creations, will perform a solo fanga dance of welcome as popularized by Pearl Primus. 


Other musicians performing include Edwin Daniel (guitar), Drew Dieckmann (guitar), J.C. Long (percussion), Dr. Ed Swan (bass guitar), John Staggers (percussion), Doug Thomas (flute, saxophone) -- and one of Damm's own daughters, MSU sophomore Mary Star Damm (percussion). 


The program's finale includes three original songs inspired by Africa and performed by all the musicians, including lead singer Lanitra Thomas. 


"The recital represents what I call my African musical journey, sharing some of the music I first learned in Africa, then music gleaned in Cuba and Ghana and finally Mali," said Damm. It parallels my own exposure to the music and culture of Africa." 


For more information, contact Damm at 662-325-7728.

Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.