This internationally acclaimed Ensemble presents a complete and unique experience of a cappella harmonies and traditional West African percussive rhythms. They are a vivacious, performing arts ensemble and have performed to standing ovations at the Women & Earth Conference, Ghana, West Africa, The Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., the National Women's Music Festival and many other venues throughout the country and abroad. The “Voices Of Africa,” share the joy of their music, which spans the African Diaspora, through traditional African and African-American songs, message music, gospel and inspirational percussive rhythms. They have been together since 1990.
The traditional West African percussion instruments the Ensemble plays are; Sakara (sah’ kah rah), hand held frame drums; the Sekere (shay’ ka ray), beaded gourds; agogo (ah goe goe), double headed bells, and Sangba drums found in Ghana and Nigeria and djembe (jim bay), West Africa.
The Ensemble Managing Director:
Nana Baakan Agyiriwah (Founder and Managing Director) has been a viable part of the African American community her entire life. She has been a trailblazer and Truth Warrior with a deep dedication to her African roots. She has inspired many with her wit, knowledge and down to earth grassroots common sense.
Nana Baakan has been singing, dancing and acting since she was a young child. She began the “Voices Of Africa” Choral & Percussion Ensemble in 1983 with her four children. She has performed with various groups, including, Women’s Shekere Ensemble, Kulu Mele, African Dance Ensemble, Eleto Egbe Omode (a children’s African Dance Ensemble she co-directed) and thousands of performances with The “Voices Of Africa” Choral & Percussion Ensemble around the country and abroad. Nana Baakan is an Akan Priestess, entrepreneur, dancer, percussionist, singer, lyricist, choreographer, educator and seamstress. She writes songs for the ensemble and arranges some of the percussion pieces the ensemble plays. Nana Baakan the created a sakara drum battery and added the Sangba, a powerful base drum usu-ally played with in a djembe orchestra of drums.
Educator, Counselor, Fashion Designer & Seamstress, Writer, Poet, Composer, Lyricist, Percussionist, Singer, Dancer, Choreographer, Tye-Die Artist, Costume, Doll & Shekere Maker and Entrepreneur Desktop Publisher, Web Designer, Publisher, Blogger, CD-DVD Productions
Featured Members Are:
Adwoa is a vocalist, drummer, dancer & actor who has been performing since the age of 10. She has been playing Afro-Cuban Bat & studying Afro-Cuban Orisha Dance since 2003. She has been dancing Akom Akan (Ghana) dance for 10 years. She currently performs with several companies in the Philadelphia area including PhillyBloco (Brazilian), Voices of Africa (African & Folk), Tambonito (Afro-Cuban & Afro-Brazilian), Leana Song (Afro-Cuban & Ghanaian) and Sonic Liberation Front (Avant-garde jazz & Afro-Cuban), as well as being on call for other musical and acting opportunities. Adwoa plays several instruments including, but not limited to Bat, surdo, sekere, sakara, agogo, & caixa. She is an avid photographer & writer. She continually seeks to expand her creative opportunities including studying conga drumming & continuously strengthening her voice.
Jan Jeffries, Percussionist, Tap Dancer: Known as Ms. Rhythm Speaker, is unrivaled as a consummate percussionist. Jeffries, a long time resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, hails from Philadelphia, where she began her career of dancing and drumming at the prestigious Sydney School of Dance. A lifetime of studying rhythms from around the world has made Jeffries equally well versed on a variety of hand percussion and kit techniques. She is also an accomplished hoofer—tap dancer. This accumulated knowledge and diversity of experience has inspired Jeffries to develop her own interpretation and distinct style of her trademark, RHYTHM TAP— intricate footwork, creating a percussion instrument out of the dancer’s feet. Just as jazz vocalists add rhythms to music by scatting, tappers add their voice by “scatting” with their feet. Rhythm tap tends to be a heavier or harder-hitting form of tap. Sounds are made not only with the bottom of the shoe, but with the back, sides, and tip.
Angela “Sadio” Watson is a keeper of traditional African folklore. Angela has been performing, teaching, and studying African arts since 1989. Angela performed in Japan, Africa, and throughout the US receiving a foundation in Guinea folklore through the protege students of the legendary Papa Ladji Camara. Papa Ladji was the first master teacher to spread Guinea dance folklore here in the US since the late 1960's. Angela was a Fulbright scholar from 1997-1998, studying the village style and ballet theater style dancing with the national ballets of Guinea. As a teacher she believes in the healing power of the dance and emphasizes the principles of community and village to teach dance. Currently Angela performs with Kulu Mele African American Dance Ensemble, Green Meadows Cultural show for kids, Balafon West African Dance Ensemble of DC, and Tyhimba. Angela is the founder of Camara Arts, 'keepers of tradition', an arts organization working with youth in Rights of passage using arts in education. Angela is presently teaching as part-time faculty at the University of the Arts.
Anssumane Sill began his dancing career at the tender age of 11. He has since danced professionally for over 18 years with the National Ballet of Guinea Bissau. He career has lead him to perform for Dignitaries, Ambassadors and Presidents from around the world. Anssumane has performed in Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, South Africa and Libya. He has garnered numerous awards for excellence in dance performance and teaching. He is very excited to teach the traditional and contemporary dance style(Bijagos, Balanta, Fula, and Manjaco) from Guinea Bissau and for people to enjoy themselves while having an amazing workout.
Zumbi Soweto, Shakia Easter, Craig Bogan-El
The Concert Program
“When we perform the spirit may starts moving,” says Nana Agyiriwah. There is no predicting what will happen when the Ensemble takes the stage You are assured of a thrilling and engaging presentation of soul-stirring and uplifting music. The Ensemble stresses that in traditional African Society, everyone actively participates in the making of music. It is not just entertainment but interaction between musician and the community. A proverb from Zimbabwe states: “If you can walk you can dance, if you can talk you can sing.” This openly invites everyone. Feel free to dance, clap and enjoy the powerful music of the "Voices Of Africa."
For a detailed group bio please visit: http://www.voicesofafrica.net
Nana Baakan Agyiriwah: singer, percussionist, wardrobe designer, dancer
Jan Jeffries: Percussionist, drum teacher
Okomfo Adwoa Tacheampong: Pioneer, singer, dancer, percussionist
Zumbi Soweto: Percussionist, drum teacher
Latanya McKelven: Support Staff
Angela Watson: Dancer, Storyteller, drummer, singer
Craig Bogan-El: Dancer, Drummer
Anssumane Silla: Dancer, Drummer
Sweet Honey in the Rock, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Miriam Makeba, Les Nubians, Bob Marley, Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brasilian Music, Dave Matthews Band, Indie Arie, Michael Franti, Mogauwane Mahloele, Olodun, Samite of Uganda, The Nylons, the Persuaders, Zion Trinity, Women of the Calabash, The Roots, Andreas Vollenweider, Rockapella, The Tribunes, Manhattan Transfer, James Taylor, Hezekiah Walker, Kirk Franklin, Richard Smallwood, The Staple Singers, Fred Hammond.
What to Expect
Typical Gig Duration: 30 - 120 minutes
VOA performances are lively, uplifting and encourage audience participation. The audience is expected to clap their hands and dance in their seats or in the aisle, if it is permissible. African drumming is the mainstay of this group's presentations. Drumming is used to heal, penetrate, disperse separation and unify. VOA also provides storytelling and West African Dancing.
12 pack sports pac, bottled water
2 6-foot tables
2 monitor wedges
2-4 amplifiers suitable for the venue
4 instrument mics
6 cordless vocal mics
private dressing room
We prefer to have a sound check at least 2 hours before our presentation. We also ask for vegetarian refreshments, juices and fruits to be served in our dressing room before each presentation. We also need parking permits whenever indicated.
1/2 deposit in advance
Final deposit at the performance
We bring our own instruments, but would like to have assistance in loading and unloading our instruments. We also need parking permits whenever that is indicated.
2006: 100 gigs
2007: 75 gigs
2008: 50 gigs
2009: 20 gigs
2010: 25 gigs
2011: 20 gigs
2012: 10 gigs
2013: 10 gigs (so far)
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Available for Your
Anniversary Party, Awards Night, Birthday Party, Church Service, Concert Venue, Convention, Corporate Event, Cruise, Ethnic Celebration, Festival, Fundraiser, Graduation, Grand Opening, Private Party, Prom, Religious Celebration, Restaurant, Studio Session, Wedding Ceremony, Wedding Reception
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