Utamaduni African Camp - Blog - Paul Nas, balafoonpassie!
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Utamaduni African Camp

Utamaduni African Camp

Dutch French

This year for the first time, I gave a workshop at the Utamaduni African Camp. It is a very special camp in Denmark with a 40-year history!

East meets West

The history of this Utamaduni African Camp begins some 40 years ago with the contact between some Danes and people from the East African country of Tanzania of the Sukuma ethnic group. Mutual visits were made to Denmark and Tanzania at that time. This led to a number of activities in Denmark including the first Utamaduni Camp which attracted several dozen people at the time. The organisers persevered and over the course of several years, the camp grew into a week-long camp attended by up to 600 people. On a patch of grass in a forested area, a tented camp with all the amenities for a camp is ‘built’ from scratch within a few days. Tents for workshops, kitchen and dishwashing kitchen, administration and info, drum repairs, Africa shop, drum storage tent, toilet facilities, first aid and several catering facilities and even wifi; everything is realised with volunteers.

Utamaduni Dance Troupe

The driving group behind this event is the Utamaduni Dance Troupe. A group of dancers and drummers from all over Denmark with very close ties, who also hold monthly weekends. They have very warm ties with a number of Tanzanians – living in Denmark – who are familiar with the traditions, rhythms and Dances of the Sukuma.

A week-long full programme of dance, singing, percussion and other cultural transmission from Tanzania and nowadays there are also more workshops from West Africa. There are many choice programmes run in parallel, but there are also times when everyone can join a single particular workshop……

East ………..

……….. meets West

I received a very warm welcome there by Christian, Anna and Tinne, with whom I had previously been in touch via email. But I was also very warmly welcomed by Nick & Marie-Louise who had already heard of me and offered me their drum-repair tent as a base of operations during the Camp. They also introduced me to the members of their own dance group so I was soon in touch with many different people. Later, Baba Kone also arrived and he immediately greeted me as a friend from Burkina (where he himself is from). He was there to provide workshops, dance guidance and repair drums. He was there with his Danish wife Regge and three Burkinabè sons; Souleyman (Solo), Faisal and Rasa. Baba accompanied me when I gave a presentation to the camp participants on what to expect from the balafon workshops. I accompanied Baba in the djembé workshop he gave; together with Solo, I played the balafon during the workshop.

Baba Kone plays the arrangement he presented in the workshop

For my own workshop introduction to the balafon I had got 15 balafon players in my car. At Byggefest I added one more so I could teach 16 people at a time. In addition, I had brought talking drums and shakers in case many more people flocked to my offer. Fortunately, it worked out just about every day with my 16 balaphones. It was hard to keep concentration there all the time, though, because at the same time drumming or dance workshops were going on in neighbouring tents or on lawns. We worked on Wari Vo (‘Your materialism is no basis for my love for you’) and Samba Moussoko (about Samba, who seems to choose the wrong path in life). Both Wari Vo and Samba Moussoko can be found in the rhythm section of this website.

Samba Mousso Ko as offered in class

One big family

Another special thing about this Utamaduni African Camp was that all generations were well represented; children, teenagers, young parents with children, older parents of them and some senior founders of the camp were there the also still fulfilled a role.

On Friday, the camp was open to all visitors. There were mostly many friends, family and people who had participated in the camp before or did not have the opportunity to be there for the whole week this year. It felt like one big family, of which I was a part at the end of the week. Thank you, for being able to be a part of it!

Utamaduni has an extensive website including history and archive material and a songbook with songs and sound files. The website is in Danish but a translator provides a resource to find out more about this special club.

Utamaduni African Camp
Paul Nas
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