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Making a joyful noise

Choral and percussion groups round out CELEBRATE! week with a global flare

by Alexa Milan,
  • Members of Elon’s jazz ensemble élan are joined by Elon’s newest ensemble, the World Percussion Ensemble, in Friday’s “World Out” concert on Young Commons. Photo by David Wells.

  • The music selection was from a variety of cultures including: the Far East, Eastern Europe, South and West Africa and Brazil. Photo by David Wells.

  • Photo by David Wells.

Elon began to wrap up CELEBRATE! week May 2 on Young Commons with a concert that served to both entertain and reinforce the value of being a global citizen.

“World Out” showcased the musical talent of the vocal jazz group élan and the new World Percussion Ensemble and featured music from countries like Kenya, Brazil, Cuba, Zambia and South Africa.

Jim Roberts, adjunct instructor of music and director of the World Percussion Ensemble, said he thinks “World Out” was a great way to broaden people’s cultural perspective.

“We live in a time when nationalism has really peaked,” Roberts said. “There’s nothing wrong with that, but this makes students see that we are part of a world community.”

The beautiful weather and large crowd set the perfect atmosphere for a celebration of world music. Both students and members of the greater Elon community attended the event, which élan and the World Percussion Ensemble have been preparing for since the beginning of the semester.

“World Out” opened with “Vamuvamba,” a traditional Kenyan Christian song of celebration. As élan sang behind them, the World Percussion Ensemble lined the front of the stage dressed in bright colors and global prints. 

Most of the students in the ensemble had little to no percussion experience before joining the group in February. But they really got to show off what they learned in “Kaki Lambe,” a song about the protector of the forest and about bringing the community together. Though that song primarily featured the percussion ensemble, élan was still into it, moving to the beat behind the percussionists.

Though élan is typically a jazz group, senior Jessica Brust said she thinks there is value in learning a variety of musical styles.

“It is important for music students to be exposed to music from all over the world because that way you can say you’ve had experience working with a variety of genres,” Brust said. “As a musician, you never know what type of music you’ll be hired to play. It helps immensely to broaden your horizons and learn to enjoy it.”

Both élan and the World Percussion Ensemble showed off their impressive speed in songs like “Soli,” a coming of age song from Guinea, and “Natufurahi Siku Ya Leo,” another Kenyan Christian song.

Audience participation was also encouraged at “World Out.” Roberts said that the song “Salseo,” based on the Cuban rumba, is typically performed with dancers. No dancers were involved in the concert, so Roberts encouraged the audience to get up and dance along.

The audience was also encouraged to help expand the World Percussion Ensemble beyond only percussion and include singers and other instruments.

“It is our hope that this new ensemble will also be populated by students who want to sing world music,” said Stephen Futrell, associate professor of music and director of élan. “And thus it becomes the World Music Ensemble.”

“World Out” drew to a close with the upbeat finale “Waka Waka,” a song from South Africa meaning joy. This theme was exhibited in the performance as élan’s energetic clapping accompanied the sounds of the percussion ensemble.