Agula Dancers Visit Eastern New Mexico University

The Agula Dancers created an upbeat atmosphere during their evening at ENMU. The Chase photo: Rebecca Darrup

On Feb. 20, students at Eastern New Mexico University experienced a small part of African culture that plays a large role in its society. The Agula Dancers, led by Akeem Ayanniyi, played traditional African music in the Greyhound Lounge and demonstrated the use of various traditional drums. The event was sponsored by Multicultural Affairs and African American Affairs.

Music is a big part of the culture, as Ayanniyi explained, as it was used to communicate for many years. Most of the music was learned through the years by call-and-response, where the group would repeat what the leader sang, and has been passed from generation to generation in that way. Ayanniyi is a ninth-generation drummer and has been performing since he was 5 years old. “I’ve been a drummer all my life because it’s my family work; I have to keep the legacy of drumming alive,” said Ayanniyi.

Originally from Nigeria, Ayanniyi is now based in Santa Fe where he teaches all ages and grade levels. He covers the entire school district in Espanola. Some of his former students became members of the group. Two other members of the group are also from Nigeria, Ayanniyi said, and he has worked with them for 15 years. The group has been in 45 of the 50 states and has toured worldwide.

“I work with jazz band, blues and rhythm, and I incorporate African music into it... I make my music unique,” stated Ayanniyi. “It’s good to know how to play both traditional music and Western music.” At the end of the evening, students were encouraged to try their hand at drumming and learned a few steps of the dances that accompany the music.

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