Published: Jul 29, 2008 03:42 PM
Modified: Jul 29, 2008 03:42 PM
Mabinti Shabu grew up amid the sights and sounds of traditional West African music and dance, and in that culture, she said, the separation between performer and audience is fluid and permeable.
"There's no such thing as just sitting and watching," she said. "If you're in the audience, at some point you expect to participate. You sing, you clap, you get up and move around. That's part of the whole joy of the experience, the sharing of it."
So if you're going to go see Shabu and some of the other members of Djembe Fire! at the Carrboro Century Center tonight, better wear comfortable clothes and be ready to make some noise. The show is, in contemporary parlance, interactive.
Djembe Fire! will perform tonight at 7:30 at the Century Center, 100 N. Greensboro St. The show is part of Carrboro's Summerdipity Entertainment Series. Admission is $3.
If you've ever seen Djembe Fire! before, you know the interactive part of it will come easily. The show opens with an exuberant bang, and the rhythms and energy of the dancing and drumming are infectious. It's hard not to want to move and join in.
"It's a very vibrant, high-energy show," Shabu said. "But we also build in valleys, sections where the flow focuses on the melodic elements of the instruments. We want to give you a wide range of experiences."
Djembe Fire! is, as you might expect, built around the rhythms of the djembe, a traditional drum that originated in Guinea and Mali. The hourglass-shaped djembe has become familiar far beyond its original range, and is frequently used by Western musicians and in amateur gatherings such as drum circles.
In the hands of a master, though, the djembe speaks with a remarkable number of voices and is capable of an amazing variety of tones, rhythms and effects.
Djembe Fire! features other instruments, but they serve as complements to the main one.
"For us, the djembe is the lead, or signal, drum," Shabu said. "You establish a foundation, and the djembe rides on top of that."
Djembe Fire! grew out of the artistry of Shabu's parents, Baba and Mama Shabu, whose children now form the core of the group.
"As a company, we've been together for about 10 years," Shabu said. "But really I've been doing this since I was little. When you grow up in with it, it becomes part of you. It's like one of our dancers says: 'I am my art.'"
In the participatory spirit of the music and dance, Shabu said, the group's performances are all about sharing energy. They generate a lot of it on stage. The audience responds with energy of its own, and the two combine to create something that is unique to each performance.
"It's always a cycle of reciprocation," Shabu said. "What you give, you get back. If you know how to give an audience what it needs, the audience will take that and build on it, and you create this wonderful give-and-take. You get everybody on the same level, sharing the experience. That's the reward right there."
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