Arts and Entertainment

West African music live at Haller

Saeed Abbas performs with the Presidents Elementary School staff and with the Haller Middle School Drum Ensemble in February this year. Abbas will perform with his Ghanaian ensemble Gye Nyame at Lincoln Theater May 30 and he will be in Arlington for a Haller Middle School assembly May 29. - Courtesy Joe Horsak
Saeed Abbas performs with the Presidents Elementary School staff and with the Haller Middle School Drum Ensemble in February this year. Abbas will perform with his Ghanaian ensemble Gye Nyame at Lincoln Theater May 30 and he will be in Arlington for a Haller Middle School assembly May 29.
— image credit: Courtesy Joe Horsak

Fresh from their performance at Northwest Folklife in Seattle, Gye Nyame, under the leadership of Saeed Abbas, will bring the energetic, electrifying music and dance of Ghana, in West Africa, to Arlington for an assembly at Haller Middle School, May 29, and then will perform at the Lincoln Theatre in Mount Vernon May 30.

"I have just confirmed that Gye Nyame will be doing an assembly at Haller Middle School at 1:45 p.m., Thursday, May 29," said the school's music teacher, Joe Horsak.

"Saeed performed at Presidents Elementary back in February and everyone loved it," Horsak said. "I can't wait to have him out again."

Through talking drums and colorfully costumed dancers, the ensemble brings to town the intoxicating rhythm of far away Africa.

Abbas was born into the Hausa tribe in Ghana, a country of 74 tribes rich in music and dance. Formerly known as the Gold Coast, Ghana was the first country in Africa to break free of colonial rule in 1957.

As a child, Abbas learned his art from his grandfather and the elders of the tribe. Abbas showed prodigious musical talent from childhood and overcame much to pursue his passion. He began teaching in Ghana Public Schools at 16 and at 19 he became master drummer of Ghana's National Dance Ensemble, performing all over the world before such famous audiences as the Queen of England and U.S. President Bill Clinton.

After five years with the national ensemble, Saeed resigned and moved to London where he performed and recorded a CD with Brekete, a traditional African group from Ghana.

In addition to the drums, Abbas also plays the flute and xylophone. He has made a lifelong study of the music of his country.

"Music is my happiness," he said.

"I teach in a methodical, intentional manner. Students gain an understanding of basic African rhythms and they learn about the traditional instruments in the context of Ghanaian history and geography. I tell tribal stories about the rhythms and the songs they are studying," Abbas said.

"Everyone can learn the rhythms and benefit from drumming. Drumming reduces stress and serves as an emotional outlet. For many children the discipline of music and the cooperative effort of playing in unison is a rare experience. It is a way of developing a feeling of competency and teamwork and is a source of great joy."

Abbas taught music in schools for several years on Whidbey Island until moving to Boston this spring. He returns to the Pacific Northwest to perform with Gye Nyame once again and to celebrate the completion of another CD.

Tickets for the Lincoln Theatre show are $15 for general admission and $8 for children and seniors.

The show starts at 7 p.m., at 712 S. First St. in Mount Vernon. For information and tickets call 360-336-8955 or 877-754-6284 toll free.

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