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World Music

The Musicology & Ethnomusicology Division sponsors three world music ensembles, managed by the Graduate Studies in Ethnomusicology program.

UMD African Drum Ensemble — performing West African music for djembe drum, doundoun drum, 21-string kora, and 21-key balafon

UMD Gamelan Saraswati — Balinese metallophone ensemble of gong kebyar style instruments

UMD Japanese Koto Ensemble — string ensemble performing koto and shakuhachi music of Japan

UMD Korean Percussion Ensemble — learns and performs Korean percussion music from the more traditional p'ungmul farmers' bands music and the more contemporary Samul Nori pieces

UMD African Drum Ensemble

The African Drum Ensemble, offering beginning and advanced level classes, teaches UMD students to play simple and complex patterns for effective execution of traditional rhythmic compositions for the Djembe drum ensemble. The African Drum Ensemble is designed to allow students to experience traditional African cultures as exemplified in the traditions of kora music, balafon, music, and Manding style drumming. Students learn the fundamental techniques of playing the 21-string kora, the 21-key balafon, the djembe drum, and the doundoun drum through an iterative process that progresses from simple melodic and rhythmic phrases in a single tuning and/or rhythmic style, to more complex patterns, and on to composition. There are two public performances annually in which students have the opportunity to perform with consummate West African musicians.

Students also learn about the significance of music and rhythms in Manding cultures, and the symbolisms and values of the music in its historical, ceremonial, and social contest in societies and cultures of African people. Other instructional activities offered to students in the ensemble class have included lectures and discussions, singing, and movement workshops and viewing of films and live performances presented by professional African dance and music ensembles, as well as viewing footage of Manding community social/ceremonial events that were documented by Diali Djimo Kouyate, in Senegal and Gambia. The students also have the opportunity to listen to and analyze recordings of traditional and contemporary West African music.

UMD Gamelan Saraswati
directed by I Nyoman Suadin

The Gamelan Saraswati ensemble includes students from the School of Music and other departments of UMD. Gamelan Saraswati takes its name from Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and the arts. The gong kebyar style instruments, which were acquired in 2001, were built by I Wayan Beratha, a leading instrument maker, composer, performer, and teacher in Bali. There are two public performances each year. The Gamelan Saraswati sometimes has the opportunity to perform with locally based Gamelan Mitra Kusuma. Founded in 1997, Gamelan Mitra Kusuma draws together individuals from the Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC communities devoted to the study and presentation of music and dance of Bali. The name Mitra Kusuma means "Flowering Friendship," which describes the spirit of this group — creative relationships cultivated by the musicians and dancers.

UMD Japanese Koto Ensemble
directed by Kyoko Okamoto

The Japanese Koto Ensemble is made up of both graduate and undergraduate students. Koto courses are designed to allow students to experience Japanese cultural aesthetics as exemplified in the traditions of koto and shakuhachi music. Other instructional activities have included lectures and discussions, Japanese dining, and viewing of films and live performances presented by professional musicians. The annual concert of the Koto Ensemble is a joint venture with the Washington Toho Koto Society, a nonprofit group of koto players and friends, primarily from the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Founded in 1971 by Kyoko Okamoto to promote the understanding and appreciation of Japanese koto music, the Society participates in many national and local community events, including the Lantern Lighting Ceremony which traditionally opens the National Cherry Blossom Festival each spring.

In October 2003, the Washington Toho Koto Society was honored to receive a Special Award from the Foreign Minister of Japan, Yoriku Kawaguchi, in recognition of thirty-plus years of spreading koto music in the United States and promoting mutual understanding and friendship between the two countries.


UMD Korean Percussion Ensemble
directed by Sebastian Wang

The UMD Korean Percussion Ensemble was formed in 2009 under the directorship of Sebastian Wang and is one of the first of its kind in the United States. The ensemble learns and performs Korean percussion music from the more traditional p'ungmul farmers' bands music and the more contemporary Samul Nori pieces, played on two drums and two gongs, that are currently very popular in Korea itself.