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Kent State’s African Ensemble allowed a student to discover a facet of her identity she had never explored before.

Faith Forinash, a major in music education, joined the African Ensemble in the spring of 2019. She discovered the ensemble by chance when she entered one of the rehearsals after hearing sounds of dancing and drums.

Forinash described the ensemble as a way for her to explore her racial identity more closely than she has ever done before.

“The fact that I was going to be the majority,” Forinash said was part of the reason she was so drawn to the group. “It’s really unbelievable.”

Forinash thanks the class for teaching him the instruments used in traditional African music. Being a major in music, she said she enjoyed learning the similarities and differences between these instruments and the instruments used in America. Forinash also learned traditional clothing, dance styles, and phrases from various African languages.

Before joining the ensemble, Forinash struggled to explore his cultural roots. Being the only person of color in her family, she used the things she learned to educate her family about African cultures.

“I teach them along the way and they also support me a lot,” she said.

Forinash has described herself as the perfect example of why global ensembles like this should exist. Since joining the group, Forinash has changed the way she talks about her racial identity.

“I actually changed the way I immediately identify my race because of it,” she said. “Usually I would say, ‘I’m mixed. I am white. I’m black. I don’t say that anymore. I say I am a biracial African American.

Forinash is first and foremost a dancer for the group, but Janine Tiffe, director of the ensemble, asks the students to experiment and learn dance and drums.

“I think it’s really important that everyone at least gets a taste of everything,” she said. “You will be a better drummer if you understand dance and vice versa. “

Tiffe was first drawn to African music when she heard the intricate drum rhythms when she was in her first year in college. She was drawn to the complexity of music and wanted a challenge. She is the director of the African Ensemble and the Steel Band.

“Music and dancing go so closely together,” Tiffe said. “You have to be able to hear very well to understand where the dance is going. “

The African Ensemble was created in the 1980s by Professor Halim El-Dabh. Any student of any major can take the course to be part of the ensemble. The group performs “traditional and modern drums, dances and songs from various cultural groups in Africa and its diaspora,” according to the group’s webpage.

Outside of the end of semester concert, the group performs for the community when they can. For Black History Month, the group performs at the Kent Free Library and for students at Davey Elementary School.

Lindsey Sellman is a journalist. Contact her at [email protected]


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