Theater archives

It Takes a Village to Re-Create Africa in Brooklyn—Chuck Davis Does It Again


Candles burned and African drum rhythms permeated the air as Chuck Davis, artistic director and master of ceremonies, led his white-clad elders down the BAM opera house’s aisles in a processional to bless the bantaba (dancing ground). Colorfully adorned dancers and drummers appeared soon after, smiling and greeting one another. The village giant, Shaka Zula, hovered over the crowd on enormous red stilts, shaking his body, waving pom-poms, and balancing with one leg in the air. A joyous potpourri of music and movement included Nii TetteyTetteh leading a band of drumming, guitar-riffing, and flute-whistling musicians in a medley of earthy sounds while his Kusun Ensemble performed tigale, bawa, fume fume, and nbende—dances from Ghana and Zimbabwe. The Bambara ensemble’s lively ladies in beaded brassieres, the most boisterous group on the program, hollered and chopped out movements from Guinea. Ecstatic spectators threw dollar bills at their favorites. I would have too, if I’d had the money.