African percussion ensemble
 
About
While rooted in African tradition, the Bernard Woma Ensemble bridges Western orchestral music with the music and dance of West Africa.  The ensemble's combination of the gyil African xylophone and other African percussion with Western orchestral instruments takes their unique music beyond its traditional context and into a global musical landscape. The group is a touring ensemble that features innovative new compositions for the gyil, as well as traditional West African repertoire.

Posted: Jun-5-2011
Latest Recording
"Bernard Woma In Concert"
(JMB 0001)

Virtuosity and live power from the legendary master of the African "gyil" xylophone.

"Bernard Woma In Concert" features master Ghanaian musician Bernard Woma, along with percussionists Mark Stone and Kofi Ameyaw. The group performs traditional Dagara bewaa and binne music as well as Bernard's original compositions.

Bewaa is a recreational music which literally translates "you come." Bewaa music is played at social events where community members come together. Such events can include but are not limited to: the enstoolment of a chief, harvest festivals, marriage ceremonies, and naming ceremonies. Bewaa is also commonly played at pito bars where family and friends gather together to share in the local brew (pito), song, and dance.

During a performance of recreational Dagara music, everyone present actively participates. Typically, two xylophones (gyile) and two gourd drums (koi) are placed in the center with dancers (sebsebiir) moving in a circle around the musicians. The dancers alternate between a slow stepping motion and a vigorous dance. During the slower movement, the dancers walk in a circle while singing. When the xylophonist (gyil-mwiere) plays the "dance beat" the singing stops, the drumming intensifies, and dancers move in unison through a sequence of quick, athletic steps. After this vigorous dancing is completed, the xylophonist changes the music back to the relaxed walking section and a new song begins. This alternation between song and dance sections can last for hours, as one section flows into the next in a seemingly endless composition.

The most advanced forms of gyil music are performed at funerals and other religious ceremonies. Most Dagara funerals last for three full days. The gyile and koi are played continuously throughout this three-day ceremony. When one group of musicians tires, another group quickly replaces them. Men present at the funeral site gather around the musicians and participate in dirge singing. At times, a group of men will break away from the singing to form a line of dancers. These dancers move around a throne-like structure built out of sticks called a paala that holds the deceased's body. Separate groups of women also dance to and from the paala throughout the ceremony. Dagara funeral music and dance are referred to collectively as binne, which translates "let's stomp." Men and women have distinct styles of dancing. These dance styles are made up of highly syncopated leaps and stomps coordinated with the binne music.

At a funeral, a xylophonist begins each session of dirge singing with a series of fast, unaccompanied runs up and down the gyil. These musical phrases (chob) establish a pitch center for the singers. The musicians and dirge singers (sugsug-be) then continue with songs for the deceased and his or her family. There are specific songs sung for men and specific songs sung for women, with additional categories of songs for elders, chiefs, and children. During the funeral ritual, every phrase the xylophonist plays has literal meaning in the Dagara language. Throughout a funeral all praises, proverbs, mourning, words of consolation, sympathy, advice, insults, and commentary are expressed through the music.

In addition to being a leading performer of traditional Dagara music, Bernard is also great innovator. He regularly creates new compositions for his instrument, often reflecting on events in his personal life and in the world around him. He has composed many new works for the gyile during the past decade. In his compositions, Bernard brings together elements of traditional Dagara music with new musical concepts developed as a concert artist playing the gyil on stages throughout the world.

1) Introductionl
2) Ghana Pure Na
3) Naamwin Nu Tum/ Pog Yuor
4) Bewaa
5) Gandaa Yina
6) Gyil Nyog Me Na
7) Yaayaa Kole
8) Binne
9) Bagr Binne- Intro.
10) Bagr Binne

Posted: Apr-8-2011
Latest Acclaim
... a very dynamic, exciting concerto... So successful was this [piece] that amid a standing ovation, the Woma ensemble played an encore .....
— Special to the Times Union
Posted: May-20-2011