Rochester welcomes West African music as part of Rochester Civic Music program

(ABC 6 News) – Rochester Civic Music is hosted a band playing West African Music as part of their Youth and Adult enrichment programs. This happens once a year as part of their Artists in the Schools and Artists in the Libraries tours.

"When you play on the stage don’t play for yourself. Play for the audience," said band leader Diali Cissokho.

Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba is a band that explores spiritual songs, stories and rhythms from Senegal. The band works to combine traditional and modern sounds with instruments like the electric guitar.

"A lot of people think: oh Africa means drums. But really there’s a robust string music that comes from all over West Africa," said Will Ridenour, a percussionist in the band.

They teach audiences about the kora, an African string instrument, and other aspects of West African culture along the way.

"There’s not many people who do what we do. So pretty much wherever we go people have not heard of the kora and have not been exposed to this type of music from West Africa," Ridenour said.

Rochester Civic Music is facilitating this in Southeastern Minnesota to give small towns access to global music that they may not have had otherwise.

"People in smaller towns might not have access to for live performance. It’s not always global music but it’s often global music," said Paul Atkins, the community outreach coordinator at Rochester Civic Music.

The band has also been touring local schools with performances at Franklin Elementary and Jefferson Elementary in Rochester. The group will continue to have shows open to the public at libraries throughout Southeastern Minnesota, and will have a finale concert at Rochester Civic Theatre on March 5.

"They realize that they have a connection to it. They don’t have to speak the language that the performers are singing in, they connect with it on a very human level," Atkins said.