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Stonefelt sabbatical work to focus on Ghana's music, and drumming in Japan
Monday, November 30, 2015

Stonefelt sabbatical work to focus on Ghana's music, and drumming in Japan

SUNY Distinguished Professor Kay Stonefelt

SUNY Distinguished Professor Kay Stonefelt will spend the first phase of her 2016 Spring Semester sabbatical time organizing and editing video, audio, and photographic materials collected during her research in Ghana, West Africa. Dr. Stonefelt began collecting these materials in 1993-94 during her Fulbright Senior Scholar year in Ghana and on subsequent travels.

She noted the historical significance of the materials cannot be ignored. Whereas Dr. Stonefelt was the first person to drive a car through the bush to a remote village in Ghana, that village, 21 years later, has certified clean water wells and most recently, electricity. Her connection to the village of Hiineting, Upper West Region, Ghana, and the development of safe and modern utilities was, and is, through music.

During her time in Ghana, Stonefelt had opportunities to experience music and art in the context and rhythm of the remote village life, and comparatively, to the developing modern life of the rhythmically vibrant city of Accra, Ghana, and the movement of music and art from its contextual and cultural roots into the modern theatre or popular arts venues.

It was in the city of Accra that Stonefelt also took opportunity to meet and interact with the American diplomatic community. She observed how the arts served as a bridge between cultures and led to more sincere communication and understanding between diverse groups of people. It is from this perspective that Stonefelt will pursue the second phase of her sabbatical. In March she will travel to Japan for a stay of approximately three months. She will affiliate with a taiko drumming school that is woman owned, managed, and directed by Tomoko Igarashi, or Moko-sensei, as she is honored by her students.

Moko-sensei has established a firm professional and artistic relationship with the international and English speaking communities in Tokyo. Many of her students (professionals and school age) are connected in some way to the diplomatic community. While Stonefelt is keenly interested in the drumming techniques and contemporary compositions for taiko ensemble, it is rather how the visual and performing arts, and classes of such, function as agents of communication that will be the focus of Stonefelt’s observations while in Japan.

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