Jabali Afrika has campus community dancing to the beat

Release Date: 2/22/2013

Last week, Ozarks played host to Jabali Afrika, a Kenyan musical group known for mixing traditional African music with more modern themes. The event may have started out as a performance, but by the end of the night, every one of the 250 audience members were joined together in a celebration of music, culture and dance. 

Megan FinCannon, coordinator of campus activities and residential education, had seen Jabali Afrika perform before and knew they would be fun, but even she was not prepared for the sheer joy they brought to the Ozarks crowd.

"I found out about Jabali Afrika during the National Association for Campus Activities conference this past October. Jabali Afrika put on a demonstration there, and we decided to bring them to campus," FinCannon explained.

"I've been nervous all year waiting for this event. You never know how students will respond to something they've never seen before, but the event was a huge success," FinCannon exclaimed.

For FinCannon and the rest of the audience, the greatest part of the night came when the group asked for volunteers. They called willing participants up on stage to learn a few traditional African dance moves, and the audience members embraced the challenge wholeheartedly.

"He asked the girls to come on stage first, then the guys; after that it turned into one big dance party," she said. "Everyone was having so much fun, but at the same time we were learning about traditional Kenyan music. It was great."

The audience members weren't relegated to dancing either. Cindy Lanphear, assistant professor of management and business, got to play a set of Kenyan drums while audience members danced both on stage and in the crowd.

"I've never been more proud to be a part of Ozarks," FinCannon said. "I mean, we're always friendly and welcoming, but on this night, there were no differences between us. Everyone came together, laughed with each other, and cheered each other on."

Even the band members noticed a difference in the Ozarks audience.

"When the band learned that we were expecting about 250 people, they were surprised. They didn't think that was a very large crowd, but at the end of the night, they told me our audience was one the best they had ever performed for," FinCannon said. "For all my worrying, it was a fantastic event. We're definitely planning to do more of this type of event in the future."

Jabali Afrika

Several students took part in a student life-sponsored event by Jabali Afrika, a Kenyan musical group that performed on campus last week. (Photo by Carmen Castorena)