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Children Learn West African Drumming, Dancing at Ossining Camp

Fourth-graders in Ossing participated in a West African camp, teaching students about the region's music. Photo Credit: Contributed
Students danced and swayed to the beat. Photo Credit: Contributed
Students learned how to play the drums from instructors M’Bemba and M’Ballou Bangoura. Photo Credit: Contributed
Students prepare for their final performance. Photo Credit: Contributed

OSSINING, N.Y. -- Seventeen students arrived at Claremont School in Ossining on a Monday in July and five days later were drumming and dancing to the traditional rhythms of Guinea in West Africa, as if they had been doing it for six months, said Matt Young, a fourth-grade teacher in Ossining.

“Before Monday, most of them had never picked up a stick before, except to roast a marshmallow. Most of them had never danced before, except the Macarena,” Young told their relatives and friends before the children performed on the last day of the week long camp.

Young worked with the father-daughter team of M’Bemba and M’Ballou Bangoura to teach the children. M’Bemba Bangoura, a native of Guinea, has traveled around the world as a performer, teacher and choreographer. He and his daughter have taught hundreds of students.

“This is something very, very special that you keep in your heart,” Young told the students, who will be entering second through fifth grades this fall. The free camp was funded by the Ossining MATTERS Education Foundation. 

“It’s tiring. It’s kind of hard, but it’s still fun,” he said. “I wish the camp was longer.” Marcus Nahim, 10, said he did African drumming during the school year with Mr. Young and wanted to do it again. “I really love to do the drumming and dancing,” he said.

Lesly Illescas, 10, said she had never played drums but always wanted to try it. The camp was a little hard, and it was hot in the school, but “It was worth it,” she said.

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