Sunday, February 22, 2009

Celebration of African Cultures 2009

Yesterday we went to the Penn Museum's 20th Annual Celebration of African Cultures. This was our second time going to this. The first time was when the boys were 2, (click here ) -- that, by the way, was what inspired K & O's obsession with African drumming (click here). The first time we went as our 'big event' for Black History Month 2007. It ended up being so awesome that we swore to ourselves that it would become an annual tradition for our family. We were sad to miss it last year, though, because we were in Florida. This year I made sure it was on our calendar far, far in advance. It lived up to all of our grand memories of it. Wow. Seriously, it was awesome.

At the Harambee Drum Ensemble and Harambee Choral Ensemble the boys were absolutely mesmerized by the drumming and star-struck by the drummers (some of whom were kids only a few years older than K & O). The drumming was so loud you could feel it pounding through your body. Now, that is the kind of thing that my boys live for! The place was so crowded that I ended up sitting on the floor with Kyle and Owen. Best seats in the house. Braydon and I had wondered how Meera would do with it all (thick crowds, big noise, lots of commotion; we also had her in a 'real stroller' for the first time [i.e., not our jogging stroller that she goes in for walks], and skipping her afternoon nap). Right away we saw our answer: she loved it (the stroller and the Celebration of African Cultures), and she did great the entire day. It was awesome.

Our experience at the Women’s Sekere Ensemble was probably a Top 20 K & O Moment of all time. First of all, these three women know how to make some amazing (like, pulsing through your body amazing) music. Secondly, K & O know how to make three women feel amazing. When the boys were little they had a board book that they loved (it was their absolute favorite for a stretch of many months) called Shake Shake Shake. It was about the shekere, an African gourd instrument. I don't know if it was because these women were playing shekeres or what, but K & O went crazy for it (Meera loved it too, but the boys were waaaaaaaaaaaay into it). At first they were standing on the side watching. Right away the feet were tapping. Then the hips started hippin' and that morphed pretty quickly into some moving and shaking. Kyle couldn't contain himself any longer and before we knew it he was dancing in the middle, putting on quite a show for everyone there. Pretty soon Owen was in the center too -- and these two boys danced like crazy for the rest of the performance. Braydon kept asking me, "Is this alright? Should we be letting them do this?" I kept watching the crowd, and especially the three women of the Women’s Sekere Ensemble, for cues. The crowd seemed to be loving it-- nothing but smiles as they watched K & O. But the women of the ensemble were the make-it-or-break-it for me-- and they were over the moon with K & O's joy-of-their-music. The looks on their faces were priceless. The ladies were watching the boys dance to their rythms, and the ladies' faces were truly lit up, their eyes literally sparkling. I could see what a thing it was for them and I just didn't have it in me to try to stop the boys from it. After the show the three women actually managed to find us somehow in the crowd. They wanted to know the boys' names and before we knew it the five of them (the three ladies, K, and O) were carrying on like they had known each other their whole lives. The women had lots of wonderful things to say about our boys. For me, this kind of affirmation is enough to last me a long time (like, many months probably). They were just absolutely delighted with K & O. After talking awhile we ended up walking to the next performance with them. As we walked through the winding halls of the museum Ky Ky was holding the hand of one of the ladies and Owen was chatting away walking side-by-side with another one of the ladies. Braydon and I trailed behind with Meera in the stroller. I seriously don't know who got more out of this time spent during and after the show by the Women’s Sekere Ensemble -- Kyle and Owen, Heather and Braydon, or the three ladies of the Women’s Sekere Ensemble. It was awesome.

But the highlight of the whole day was the grand finale performance by the Universal African Dance and Drum Ensemble. This group is unbelievable. It is a high energy heart pounding show of drumming, dancing, singing, and even stilt-walking, by people ranging in age from about 2 (seriously) to about 92 (seriously). It was awesome.

As soon as we got out onto the street Owen jumped up in the air and shouted, "THAT WAS SO FUN!" We walked to the parking garage and got into the car. Driving home all I could think was, 'Is this normal?' Is it normal for four year olds to love stuff like this so much? Is it normal for 8 month olds to seem to genuinely enjoy this? There is no way for me to gauge how exceptional or unexceptional it all is. It is all we know, so, in that sense, it is 'normal' for us. All I really know is that to me, on days like that, it feels like we're hitting on all cylinders -- and it reminds me that normalcy is very much overrated.


Anonymous said...

Normalcy is relative. For you and your family, that was normalcy.

ShannonC said...

"normalcy is very much overrated"... Heather Johnson-McCormick

That may be my new favorite quote!