Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble is observing its 51st Anniversary, Nov 28th

Philadelphia’s iconic Kùlú Mèlé African Dance & Drum Ensemble is observing its 51st Anniversary with a virtual celebration of dance and drumming from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, Saturday, November 28. The celebration includes dance and drum classes and vintage performances that will uplift and heal your spirit.

“We celebrate our anniversary in November of each year,” explained Kulu Mele’s Artistic Director Dorothy “Mama Dottie” Wilkie. “Last year, we celebrated our 50th Anniversary with the world premiere of “Ogun & the People, at the Annenberg Center. This year we had to be innovative with our approach to the annual celebration. We’re blessed to be here celebrating 51 years with a day of virtual activities the entire family can enjoy.”

The celebration schedule includes:

– Children’s West African Dance Class, 10:00 AM to 10:45 AM – taught by Alakee Bethea- Fairchild, instructor of Omo Kulu Mele (ages 5-18), the group’s children’s ensemble.

– Hip Hop Dance Class, 11:00AM to 11:45AM – with Kulu Mele member Yusuf Young

– West African Djembe Drum Class, 12:00Noon to 12:45 PM – with ethnomusicologist Ira Bond, one of the lead percussionists for Kulu Mele, and founder of Malidelphia.

– West African Dance Class, 2:00 PM to 3:30 PM – Explore the Madan style of Mali with well- respected dance instructor Cachet Ivey, a member of Kulu Mele and an adjunct professor of dance at the University of Pennsylvania.

– Orisha Dance Class, 4:00 PM to 5:30 PM — Learn dances to Elegua, Orisha of the crossroads, and Yemaya, Mother of the World, with Kulu Mele dance captain Ama Schley.

– Substance! 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM – Enjoy some of Kulu Mele’s most dynamic West African, Afro-Cuban, Hip Hop, and Jazz performances from the archives.

– Live After-Party Celebration, 8:00 PM – Chill, get ya dance on, and continue the celebration with Kulu Mele and Beats People Motion deejays.

“This virtual celebration is a new way for us to step out into the new world, the way it is now, and a way for more people to get to know Kulu Mele,” said Wilkie. “We are now stepping into having online classes. As they say, the show must go on!”

Founded in 1969 by the late Baba Robert “Ibikunle” Crowder, Kùlú Mèlé is the oldest continually- performing African dance and drum ensemble in the nation. The Philadelphia–based ensemble is dedicated to serving the community by presenting and preserving the culture, dance, and music of Africa and the African Diaspora. The ensemble has continued the traditions of iconic dancer/choreographers Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham by performing authentic dances of Africa and its Diaspora and became a major part of the foundation of Philadelphia’s Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Kùlú Mèlé (translated as “voice of our ancestors”) helped give birth to a cultural renaissance in Philadelphia’s African American communities and attracted those who were eager to study and experience African culture through the performing arts.

So, take a healing break from the pandemic on November 28 and celebrate the African Diaspora with Philadelphia’s own Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble.

There is a suggested donation for the celebration. However, no one will be turned away. For information on limited complimentary registration, email [email protected] To register for the classes and Substance performances visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/kulu-mele-day-tickets-128173575615?aff=Site. For more information on Kulu Mele visit https://www.kulumele.org/.

Kulu Mele is supported in part by funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, Orisha Community Development Corporation, Samuel S. Fels Fund, Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, William Penn Foundation, our Board of Directors, and our community of donors.

***Special thanks to Dance Journal’s intern Audrey for taking the time to re-type this press release and for restoring the photograph.