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NYTimes Profiles Only Tenured American Professor In African Drumming – At UNT

by Jerome Weeks 23 Apr 2017 6:04 PM

Gideon F. Alorwoyie is a high priest, native chief and a master drummer from Ghana who influenced minimalist composer Steve Reich’s breakthrough work ‘Drumming.’


The Sunday ‘New York Times’ arts section featured a profile of Torgbui Midawo Gideon F. Alorwoyie — director of UNT’s African Percussion Ensemble, professor of music, high priest of the Yewe cult (that’s his title, midawo) and chief (or Torgbui) of his native region in Ghana. The 71-year-old percussionist, dancer and choreographer is also founder of Denton’s African Cultural Festival, which marked its 20th anniversary April 8th.

Although there are native African drummers teaching at other American universities, according to the ‘Times,’ none of them holds a rank above adjunct professor. Alorwoyie has been teaching at UNT since 1996. Before that, he was chief master drummer of the Ghana National Dance Ensemble, touring Europe, China, the former USSR, the Caribbean, South Korea and Hong Kong. He previously taught at the State University of New York, the American Conservatory of Music and at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago.

The percussive rhythms and forms Alorwoyie knows are not written down; they’ve been passed from generation to generation through practice and performance with such master drummers as himself.

Mr. Alorwoyie travels to Ghana several times a year to attend to affairs that concern his chieftaincy but he also is attempting to pass his library of music on to people who can sustain it. Rather than update the old patterns, he said that at this point in his life, he must return to the rhythms he knows; history demands it.