Published on the York University Blog on Mar. 10, 2009
Black History month went by in a flash. York University celebrated with the Performing Diaspora festival that brought together kora player Ballake Sissoko, jazz performer Randy Weston, drumming master Billy Nankouma Konate and African dancer Sani Abu.
Sani Abu, a dance instructor and performer was thrilled to dance before a packed house during the Performing Diaspora festival. It took only two weeks for him to prepare the group of local dancers that performed at the Feb. 28th show. He used his strict method of discipline that he calls the “African way” to create a tight performance.
“They didn’t want it to end. That’s the power and the spirit of the drum,” Abu said. And they had Billy Nankouma Konate, son of Famoudou Konate, to help them with some expert drum beats.
In addition to the show, the two artists conducted workshops in the surrounding community to share their talents and to speak about African culture and history. Abu, who is based in Toronto, holds similar workshops all year round as he says, “Every month is Black History month.” Abu likes to go into some of Toronto’s tougher schools so he can help students to envision futures for themselves. He relates his own story about growing up poor in Nigeria to students to let them know that there are options for them that don’t include violence and poverty
“The drum doesn’t tell them to hit. The drum doesn’t tell them to carry guns,” Abu said.
In addition to some life philosophy Abu also teaches the students about African history and culture. He encourages the students to respect others as he believes this is an essential part of the African culture. He also promotes the friendliness and openness that he feels exists in his culture. He teaches that Africans have an open heart and an open mind and they honour anyone as if they were their own brother. Abu then incorporates traditional African dance and drumming instruction to draw the artist out of his students.
Abu also hopes to become a student at York in the future as he wants to finish a degree that he started many years ago in Nigeria. He has taught at York and feels comfortable in the community.
“I have a big love for York. This is my school,” he said.
Abu might be mingling in Vari Hall in the near future. In addition to his educational aspirations he will continue to hold dance classes in the city and will be traveling to Japan to establish links to continue touring with his African dance company ijo vudu(The Spirit in Dance). He will also start an after school program at a Toronto community school. Look out for him in the summer when he’ll be at various Toronto festivals.