Teaching a heartbeat

By Jack King

Agalu, a Nigerian-style drum and dance group, prides itself on bringing the “heartbeat” of Africa to U.S. audiences.
Led by Akeem Ayanniyi, a ninth-generation player of the traditional Yoruba talking drum, the group includes percussionists skilled in the playing of the djembe, djun djun, akiko and bata drums, a masquerade dancer who performs in masked costumes, as well as a more conventional dance performer. The troupe’s members also are traditional Nigerian textile artists who perform in colorful costumes.
Agalu will perform Saturday during Clovis’ Ethnic Fair and Downtown Arts Festival. Members of the group also will offer workshops on batik and tie-dye techniques at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at the Main Arteri, 509 Main St. The members will offer a workshop on drum and dance at 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday at Roy Walker Community Center.
The group has been part of the Ethnic Fair for eight years, said Selmus Price, chairman of the city of Clovis’ Ethnic and Culture Affairs Committee and coordinator of the Ethnic Fair
“First of all, they are professionals, whether in drum and dance or in batik and tie dye. These things are part of their culture,” Price said. “One of the main reasons for the fair is the sharing of our cultures and Agalu is something young and old can enjoy and learn from.”
Agalu members — Ayanniyi, percussionists Tunde Ojeyemi, Ayo Adeyemi, Gasali Adeyemo and Yomi Tiamiyu, masquerade dancer Femi Adebayo and dancer Sassy Ross — belong to the Yoruba tribe who live in southwestern Nigeria. Yoruba rhythms have spread throughout the world and form the basis of Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian percussion.
Nigeria is located on the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa. About the size of California, Arizona and New Mexico combined, it has a population of more than 100 million. The oil-rich country ranges from the Sahara desert in the north to tropical forests and coastal swamps in the south. It has been one of the West African countries that has sent troops as peacekeepers to Liberia.
The Third Annual Downtown Arts Festival, scheduled Friday and Saturday, will include a wine and cheese tasting, fine arts exhibits, window art displays, the Second Annual Fiery Film Fest, as well as face painting, a sidewalk art contest, a children’s art gallery, a storytelling academy, a 5K fun run/walk and a mile-and-a-quarter race.
For more information, call Price at 749-6570, Raymond and Karen Beachum 762-8397, or the Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce at 763-3435.