Stick-pounding rhythms at World House Choir concert
- Published: September 4, 2017
Off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina sit the Gullah South Sea islands. Enslaved West Africans held captive there developed a style of sacred music known as stick-pounding. In early September, World House Choir Director Cathy Roma is bringing Melanie DeMore, perhaps the foremost keeper and transmitter of the Gullah tradition, to Yellow Springs.
The annual fall concert is titled “Together We Bring on the Light.” The World House Choir and Melanie DeMore will present a program Roma describes as “aimed to uplift and empower.” Performances are Sept. 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. at Antioch College’s Foundry Theater. On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 10, there is a 2 p.m. concert at Wayman Chapel AME Church in Dayton.
DeMore, located in Oakland, Calif., is described on her website as a vocal activist. She has performed around the world, founded a Grammy-nominated singing group, and is known for bringing the Gullah tradition of stick-pounding to the general public.
According to a 2012 online interview of DeMore, during the slave trade Africans were brought to the Gullah islands; however, being disconnected from the mainland helped them retain tribal customs by redefining them. Denied drums, they turned their homes — houses raised on stilts above the water — into drums. Using sticks, the floor was transformed into a drumhead. As a form of worship, they perform their holy ring shout dance to the time of sacred rhythms.
“The stick-pounding originally is all part of spirituality,” DeMore said in the interview.
The programming for “Together We Bring on the Light” reflects the World House Choir’s mission statement, which emphasizes communities striving “toward justice, diversity and equality.”
“Many people are weary; they have been emotionally spent and spiritually drained by what is happening now,” Roma said. “We’re singing to uplift.”
*This post is an excerpted version of a story that appeared in the 8/31 issue of the YS News. The full story will be posted in the “From the Print” section of the website on Sept. 7.