Steel Drums Festival Highlights African Culture

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Ohio University students are learning more about steel drums and African culture, thanks to the World Music and Dance Festival.

OU professors Paschal Younge and Zelma Badu-Younge influenced the students who came to the steel drum workshop this weekend by teaching them about the culture and music of Trinidad, where the drumming style originated.

According to their former students and current performers, the Younges’ love for cultural music has jump-started student interest in the subject.

Senior Ben Stewart said that he became interested in the steel drums after taking African Ensemble during his senior year of high school.

Stewart stated that he has benefited from the influence of the Younges.

“It’s really nice because I feel like Paschal and Zelma really shaped the musician I am today,” Stewart said.

Stewart thinks that it is vital for students to follow their individual interests, even when they are very unique.

“I think you need to have the courage to just put down what people have told you is important and follow what actually seems to you to be important,” Stewart said.

Professional steel drummer Eric Fountain taught Thursday’s workshop and said that he was invited by the Younges to teach and perform at OU this past weekend.

“I get the chance to meet all kinds of professional performers, teachers, and lecturers,” Fountain said. “When you learn and you’re around people like that, you end up taking a piece of that knowledge.”

Fountain believes that his experience with professional drummers makes him a better teacher.

“I end up dong it kind of the same, passing that torch all around, and that kind of inspired me even to this day, to try harder and work harder on educating,” Fountain said.

African dance performer and steel drum player Ruby Chen was part of this weekend’s ensemble and said that Paschal has influenced her work positively.

“I think he’s a great teacher and great mentor and teaches us not just skill and music but…life experience,” Chen said. “Everything he does for us, I’m very thankful for.”

Chen enjoys the cultural experience.

“Everybody’s sharing this culture,” Chen said. “It’s not like we’re comparing or competing, but just embracing everything that we have and I think that’s my favorite part: the sharing.”