Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble – From Mali to America, October 15th

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble, featuring dancer Edward Smallwood
Photo Credit:  Jaci Downs

Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble has commissioned renowned Malian composer Moussa Traore  to compose new and original music, in traditional Malian styles, for “From Mali to America,” Kulu Mele’s all-new dance and drumming show, to premiere Sunday, October 15, 2017 at the Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia, PA.

Traore’s compositions for Kulu Mele will feature traditional Didadi musical styles from Mali’s Sikasso region, and well as Madan rhythms, which traditionally were played at the end of harvests and at other festive events in Mali. Moussa Traore was born and raised in Mali, West Africa. He is widely regarded as one of Mali’s top djembe players. A djembe is a traditional West African, rope-tuned, skin-covered goblet drum played with bare hands. Moussa has performed in theaters, at traditional ceremonies, at the ballet, as well as in the Malian pop music scene. Now a resident of Boston, MA, Moussa teaches drumming workshops nationwide, and he continues to distinguish himself as an esteemed teacher and performer. To date, he has recorded three CDs.

“From Mali to America” is made possible in part thanks to generous support from PECO, the Barra Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, The Philadelphia Cultural Fund, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Sheila Fortune Foundation, the Henrietta Tower Wurts Memorial, the Samuel S. Fels Fund, Union Benevolent Association, The PHILO Project, the William Penn Foundation, the Orisha Community Development Corporation, the board of directors of Kulu Mele and many generous individual donors and volunteers.

Inspired by the voices of its ancestors, Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble preserves and presents the traditional dance and music of Africa and the African Diaspora, and celebrates contemporary African American culture. Kulu Mele’s performances attract highly diverse audiences. For African Americans, Kulu Mele provides an opportunity to connect to their cultures of origins. For others, Kulu Mele is a cross-cultural exploration. For all, Kulu Mele provides rich, entertaining and enlightening experiences at the highest levels of artistic excellence. Kulu Mele’s performances are family-friendly and appropriate for all ages.

Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kulu Mele has been a highly regarded cultural institution for nearly 50 years. Kulu Mele performs year-round throughout Philadelphia and tours nationally and internationally. Kulu Mele’s extensive arts education program, Omo Kulu Mele, serves thousands of economically disadvantaged school children in Philadephia annually.

Founded in 1969 by Baba Robert Crowder, Kulu Mele has been led by artistic director Dorothy Wilkie for more than 25 years. Dorothy Wilkie began to study African dance as a child in 1955, first as an art form and later as an aspect of her spiritual practice as an orisha devotee and initiate. She joined Kulu Mele as a dancer in 1974 and later became the company’s dance captain. She has served as artistic director for more than 25 years. She has studied dance with Les Ballets Africains in Guinea, the National Dance Company of Senegal, and in Cuba and the United States. She has performed with Chuck Davis and Grupo de Danza Nueva Generacion and has choreographed for Lantern Theater Company and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as for Kulu Mele. In 2007, she was awarded a Pew Fellowship in the Arts. In 2015, she and her husband, John Wilkie, received lifetime achievement awards from the Philadelphia Folklore Project for their contributions to arts and culture.

Kulu Mele has performed across the United States and internationally, including West Africa and Cuba. In May, 2015, Kulu Mele performed at the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California. In June, 2015, Kulu Mele was the opening act for the Inside/Out Series at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival; and in September, 2015, Kulu Mele performed during the Pope’s visit to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families.

Sunday, October 15, 2017 at 3:00pm
Kurtz Center for the Performing Arts, 3000 West School House Lane, Philadelphia
Tickets: General Admission: $30 | Students: $15 | Members: $15
Purchase online on Dance Box Office at

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