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Students explore African heritage and music

By: Amanda Karioth Thompson, COCA | April 04, 2018

Named after Queen Nandi, the daughter of Bhebhe and the mother of Shaka, King of the Zulus, Kate Sullivan Elementary School second-grader Nandi Iyanu represents an impressive lineage. She was proud to showcase her African heritage in a school event featuring the continent’s music, dance and art. “I played the drums and I sang and I danced to the music,” she said.

Nandi’s father is Yoruba, one of the largest ethnic groups in Africa, made up of more than 40 million people concentrated primarily in Nigeria, Benin, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast. This geographic region gave rise to a popular call and response folk song called “Kye Kye Kule.”

Traditionally sung by children as a game, Nandi shared that it was her favorite piece to perform. “It makes me feel very excited. I think the audience felt happy.”

The audience also gained new knowledge as did Kate Sullivan’s music teacher Sharon Tacot. “The more I researched and studied and the more I learned about all the different languages,” she shook her head in astonishment, “there’s just so much there to explore. You look at the map and it’s huge.”

Tacot selected diverse music from countries across the African continent including Liberia, Tanzania and Morocco. Students sang in Swahili and several other languages and Tacot pointed out that “kids at this age, they’re sponges. These kinds of experiences are invaluable and live performance, you can’t replicate it.”

Any successful production requires a hefty dose of collaboration and determination which allows children to practice valuable life skills. “All the research shows that self-control is one of the most important things. We can all be smart, it’s just a matter of perseverance, working together and getting it done,” said Tacot.

The teamwork aspect of the event extended across disciplines and Tacot worked in partnership with visual art teacher

Emily Westfall-Crouch who was equally inspired by Africa. “There’s so much you can do and each country has its own thing.” She hung a map in the art room and used it to chart the students’ course. “I would put a sticky note saying right now we’re here, and next week we’re going to be here, and the secondgraders are over here.”

Read the rest of the story by visiting the Tallahassee Democrat

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