A whole new ‘riddim’
Pan African Studies dance event introduces students to the sounds of Africa
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On Friday, Feb. 3, students danced the night away in the U-SU Los Angeles room, completely entranced by the African and Caribbean music that flowed through their wireless headphones. Now, you might think, “why wear headphones at a dance party,” and the answer might just surprise you. Titled “Sounds of African Diaspora”, it was hosted by the Pan African Studies department and seeked to give attendees a unique music experience by gathering them together yet isolating them at the same time.
Shanique Davis, mechanical engineering major and Pan-African Resource Center program coordinator, gave a run through of the layout of the event. “I wanted to give it a club feel so we had blinking lights in the background with disco balls. Then we had the equipment, we hired a company that gave us wireless headphones that can tune into two different frequencies, so I hired two different DJ’s.” Asked why she chose to utilize the headphones, Davis replied, “I thought it was better to give students what they wanted, and I thought this was a great way… our boss is always pushing us to go outside the box.”
Aside from giving the attendees an innovative way of experiencing music in a crowd, it also had another purpose: to introduce the public to a whole new side of Black music.
“I wanted to do this event because a lot of people think that Black people only listen to rap music and R&B, and that’s not true; Black people create all types of music,” Davis said. I wanted to expose people to African and Caribbean music… because a lot of students [at Cal State LA] are Caribbean and African, but nobody’s having parties with their music.”
Attendees like Golden Eagle Radio (GER) President Jasmine Salgado quipped that the headphone experience would make sure their event wouldn’t be shut down by the police due to noise. All jokes aside, Salgado felt that the DJ’s music selection instilled a new interest in these genres. “I was talking to my friend who coordinated the event and I was asking him how can I get more of this music, so I’m definitely going to start listening more to it; it’s so much fun to dance to.”
Dominique Hill, graphic design major, spoke on how her excitement about being exposed to a whole new side of the Black music spectrum. “[This event] brings people together… it’s a pretty good environment, I feel like all people should do stuff like this,” Hill said. “I usually dance to rap music, R&B music, and techno music so this [Caribbean and African music] is pretty different.”
Those in attendance could be seen joyfully gyrating and moving in ways never thought possible, a sight that the two DJ’s of the night enjoyed. “When I saw people dancing and even singing to the lyrics of soca music… it’s nice to see people enjoying vibes and music from a whole different part of the world,” Mark Dainti, AKA DJ Wishy Washy, said. Wishy Washy is originally from Barbados, an island nation located in the Caribbean Sea, so Soca music, Dancehall, and Reggae are genres he grew up enjoying. “You have the reggae is more slow, the dancehall is more wining and gyrating, and you have soca, which is little bit of dancehall and more upbeat.”
Ebenezer Daniel Anfo, AKA DJ Pages, is originally from the African country Ghana and loves his continent’s musical history; he was pleasantly surprised by the crow reaction. “I feel they were a little surprised by African music and they were entertained; seeing their reaction was interesting, like they were dancing and I was like ‘wow’. Hip-hop is big, and I believe African music can be as big as hip-hop, even bigger than hip-hop.” When asked why he believes this, Pages excitedly answered, “because the riddim [rhythm said with an African accent], and I feel that hip-hop came from Africa and it came from the riddim of African sounds.”
Overall, the music and dance celebration served to immerse Cal State LA students in the sounds of a continent that is responsible for influencing the fabric of modern music in the U.S., a fitting start to Black History Month.