The dynamic Drummers of West Africa to perform at Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts


The wildly energetic and technically astounding Drummers of West Africa bring their vibrant percussion repertoire to Fairfield University's Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts on Friday, Oct. 31, at 8 p.m.

Under the artistic direction of Senegalese national treasure Doudou N'Diaye Rose, the Drummers are one of the most revered percussion orchestras in the world. More than 30 strong and all related to Rose, they have played the capitals of Europe, the United States and South America and recently opened the Cannes Film Festival. Their charismatic leader, whose stage antics have been compared to Mick Jagger and Elvis Presley, has collaborated with an eclectic array of popular artists, including Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Dizzy Gillespie and the Rolling Stones.

The troupe's bold musicality, bright traditional garb and stage presence have left more than one reviewer breathless.

"The possibilities - the coming together and breaking apart and remerging of rhythm and hard or deep textures, loud or soft - were endless. And just when you thought they were exhausted, it was all made fresh again," wrote Dave Ferman of the Star-Telegram of Fort Worth. "It was, at times, just too good to believe."

The Drummers of West Africa begin and end with Rose, the 73-year-old patriarch of one of the great families of Senegal. Entertainers and genealogists by caste, his family is known for songs of praise and for mastery of the sabar, a vertical drum with a goatskin head and narrow, decorated body.

Although his family did not want him to go into music, Rose was fascinated with drums at a young age. Over the years, he studied the fine points of percussion, researched drumming history and amassed one of the greatest collections of West African drums in the world. In fact, his experimentation with drum shape and sound have lead to new techniques and whole new instruments.

Rose's passion extends to sound and harmonies and he often serves as conductor to his orchestra, as they offer intricate call and response chants and other traditional melodies over the polyphonic rhythms. Much of the music they perform stems form the innumerable rhythms used throughout Senegalese society.

While touring, Rose often takes time to lead percussion workshops, introducing complex West African styles to drummers in Japan, France, Africa and the United States. Concertgoers get a taste of history and tradition, too, as the Drummers sometimes break to explain their instruments and how music is such an intrinsic part of Senegalese life. Always present at weddings and other ceremonies, music also is used to treat ailments such as animal bites, and drummers are often required at the sick bed for up to a month.

Part of the magic of Drummers of West Africa is genetic: Rose has 39 children and several grandchildren, many of whom are master drummers who are part of the ensemble. The Drummers includes both men and women, a revolutionary concept pioneered, in large part, by Rose. Some of his daughters and granddaughters even formed "Les Rosettes," a 30-year-old all-female group that would have been unheard of a few decades ago.

"The common bloodline gives the group an obvious synergy that few artists could ever hope for," wrote Pete Chakerian of the Akron Beacon Journal. "It was sheer electricity."

Tickets are $28 to $38. For tickets, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on October 1, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 82