The University Record, February 4, 1998

International Institute opens satellite office of African music, dance

By Kerry Colligan

Last fall, the International Institute opened the U.S. Secretariat, a satellite office of the International Centre for African Music and Dance (ICAMD) located at the University of Ghana, Legon. The Secretariat is the only office of its kind in the United States, according to Nanette de Jong, Secretariat coordinator. "We're trying to support ICAMD's important work in African music and dance."

Until recently, such a location did not exist anywhere in the world. In 1993, J.H. Kwabena Nketia, an ethnomusicologist formerly at the universities of Pittsburgh and California, Los Angeles, and director of ICAMD, established the center to "promote international cooperation in the study and preservation of African music and dance." Since then, ICAMD has sought to open Secretariats in various regions of the African Diaspora. And, even though the Centre is in its infancy, two Secretariats are in place (at Africa KwaZulu University in Natal and at the U-M), with a third on the way (Kenyatta University in East Africa).

"The U.S. Secretariat is a very special one and currently the most progressive in terms of fulfilling the mission of ICAMD. It was established to organize regional programs, liaise with the Centre in Ghana, exchange and develop materials of interest to scholars and students, and coordinate and disseminate both local information and information from Africa," Nketia says.

To help fulfill that mission, Lester Monts, associate provost for academic and multicultural affairs and a member of ICAMD's advisory board, plans to revive a journal formerly published at Northwestern University titled Passages. Though still in the planning stages, de Jong says Passages likely will serve as a place to publish works-in-progress. Monts said he expects Passages to begin appearing sometime this fall.

In addition to the journal, the Secretariat plans to establish an archive and study center, and to sponsor seminars, conferences, workshops and special events with other U-M units to bring together specialists in African music and dance. Disseminating information on the latest research in traditional and village music, music composed and produced by Africans, popular music forms and theoretical applications, as well as sponsoring films, lectures and performances should "provide a conduit for audiences and individuals here," Monts notes.

"Ann Arbor is a good rallying point in the U.S. for scholars and artists specializing in African music and dance," Nketia says. "The institutional framework for collaboration we have set up at Ann Arbor will establish a close link between scholars in Africa and the U.S. in the study and promotion of African music and dance."

The U.S. Secretariat is located in Room 2632 of the School of Social Work Building at the corner of South and East University Avenues. For more information, call de Jong, 936-2777, or send e-mail to nandj@umich.edu.