This past school year, fifth grade band students from Clear Springs had the opportunity to expand their musical education by learning a new type of music called gahu, a social dance from southeastern Ghana. Students worked with their band teacher, David Davis, as well as guest instructor Luke Rivard, a local musician and specialist in the gahu style. The program consisted of one class session per month beginning in September, and a culminating performance at the end of the year.
"Gahu is a traditional Ewe style of music," explains Rivard. "It's difficult music, and it can be seen as a really cool and physical puzzle you put together. It's a lot of fun."
Gahu involves a combination of melodies, rhythms, percussion, chants and dances. Students had to divide into groups and work together in order to perform. While some students played melodies on their band instruments, others used drums and traditional Ewe instruments to create different rhythms. Other students formed lines and moved around by dancing, chanting, clapping, and stomping their feet.
"When you use multiple modalities, students learn better," says Mr. Davis. "Not only are students playing their instruments, but they're also moving and dancing. We've got the oral, kinesthetic, the visual aspects all together in this type of music. You can tell they're thinking really hard about playing exactly in time."
Learning gahu also helped students gain an appreciation for music from around the world. By experimenting with diverse musical styles, students learn to think creatively with different melodies and structures, and broaden their idea of music as a whole. Music is also a fun and creative way to bridge the gap between different cultures from all around the globe.
"Students who learn to perform music of a particular culture are temporarily acquiring membership within that group," explains Mr. Davis "This musical 'insider perspective' can provide students with insights that can lead to more sympathetic interactions with diverse peers."
Students and staff at Clear Springs who participated in the event named it a huge success, and the school plans to expand the program next year to allow fifth graders from all musical groups to participate.