Barry Bilderback ’84 – The Spirit of Ghana

October 14th, 2013 Posted in Alumni News & Events, Cover Story
THE SPIRIT OF AKWAABA

Dr. Bilderback performs with drummer Quadir Muntaqim

Dr. Bilderback performs with drummer Quadir Muntaqim

In conjunction with the Harriet Tubman centennial, Barry T. Bilderback, Ph.D. ’84, held a special performance of music on September 23 in the CCC Lounge.  Barry is assistant professor at the Lionel Hampton School of Music at the University of Idaho and has spent a great deal of time studying music native to Ghana. During an interview with The Citizen, Bilderback said “Harriet Tubman’s heritage comes from Ghana. We wanted to do this in the context of her life.” He was joined by master drummer Quadir Muntaqim of Auburn who played the conga drum as well as the more traditional and native to Ghana, kpanlogo drum.

Dr. Bilderback explained the music and dance of Ghana is very much ingrained in the culture, interwoven with celebrations of life, culture and religion.  The music is exemplified by poly-rhythms, call and response and oral traditions, and what he referred to as the repetition of the cycle, the interaction between the drummer, the rhythms, the dancers, drums, players and their audience, to create a connection between all involved through music and dance.  Muntaqim agreed that for him music is very much an expression of who he is and his feelings.  “When I play the drums,” Muntaqim said. “I play my feelings and I enjoy playing my feelings.”

This music that came from Ghana was preserved by slaves and evolved into numerous forms of music from spirituals to Gospel to blues and jazz, all of which Bilderback said share some common roots. “The music was a way of communicating,” Muntaqim said. “If you could understand the music you could understand the conversation. Drumming is a language you could use to reach long distances, just like the telephone.”

Norman Lee, Director of Student Affairs with Pauline Copes-Johnson, great grand niece of Harriett Tubman. Photos taken at Cayuga CC function and on visits to Ghana.

Tubman’s great-grandniece, Pauline Copes-Johnson, was also on hand and shared her impressions of Ghana, a place she said she has been fortunate enough to visit and a place where Tubman is well respected.  “The people of Ghana know Harriet Tubman,” Copes-Johnson said. “It was a wonderful occasion to be able to go there and a wonderful learning experience.”

Editor’s Note:  To read more about Dr. Bilderback, check out “In Case You Missed It!” in this issue of Get Inspired.

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