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African drumming, bellydancing, interactive crafts and plenty of music for Ramble Arts & Music Fest

Jun 14, 2022

By Joanne Beck, courtesy of The Batavian

What do you call a fun, outdoor, multi-pronged event geared for adults, families and children of all ages?

It’s the Batavia Ramble Explore Arts & Music Festival, of course. Filled with a full day of live bands, African drumming, a larger-than-life puppet show, interactive theater workshop, and Mexican, African and belly dancers, this fest incorporates the best of the sights and sounds for spectators, organizers say.

The festival runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. July 2 at Jackson Square, tucked between Center and Jackson streets, Batavia.

Beginning the arts end of the event at 10 a.m., there will be a children’s camp of arts projects, face painting, temporary tattoos, caricatures, sidewalk chalk drawings, take-home crafts and other assorted activities, GLOW Traditions Director Karen Canning said. The camp will be found at the Explore Art tent, and runs until 5 p.m.

Meanwhile, Artsapalooza has two sessions, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Meant especially for families with young children, the palooza features the Springville Center for the Arts touring troupe centered around a theater performance by resident artists using large-sized puppets. This is an interactive theater experience that lures kids into the fun while ukuleles and drumming warm up the crowd, Canning said.

Drop-in visual arts stations encourage kids to make art while also watching the show.

“This promises to be a fun-filled and enriching experience for all ages,” she said. “GO ART! is happy to join with the Ramble to add opportunities to explore dance, visual, theater and diverse musical arts. The Artsapalooza program that we are able to sponsor this year will definitely be something different and fun for everyone to enjoy.”

Later in the afternoon the sounds of authentic, traditional African drumming, songs and dance from Ghana will be led by Quaye Odai of Womba Africa, a cultural drum and dance group that’s part of the Ga Adangbe People in greater Accra, Ghana.

Known as a tribe with a rich history and culture distinctive from other major ethnic groups, these performers first came to the United States in 2019 to compete on America’s Got Talent. They settled into Rochester after the show and now give workshops and performances throughout New York State at schools, libraries, community centers, festivals and parties.

“Anywhere that people are ready to move and renew their body and soul,” she said.

A workshop for families runs from 4 to 5 p.m. with a performance from 5:30 to 6:15 p.m. at the GO ART! stage.

Womba Africa’s performances showcase their unique culture through costumes, instruments, rhythms, dance, and songs, Canning said. The costumes’ colorful Ghanaian fabrics are embedded with Adinkra symbols, with each symbol having a distinctive meaning.

The instruments include drums, xylophones, flutes, and a variety of shakers and bells. They are mostly handmade from wood, bamboo, gourds and seeds or beads, with drumheads from goat, cow and antelope skins. Womba’s songs and rhythms “intertwine in a characteristic African, polyphonic manner, blending distinct voices into a tapestry of rhythm, harmony and color,” she said.

Next up is Troupe Nisaa (pronounced Nee-Say), with many styles of belly dancing, from 6:30 to 7 p.m. Performers put an emphasis on Fusion Style and include “beautiful, strong women who gather together to enjoy the art of bellydance.”

“The Troupe believes strongly in the sisterhood bond of bellydance, and supports and promotes the empowerment of the feminine through their dancing,” she said.

Capping off the lively arts-themed day is Alma de Mexico from 7:15 to 8 p.m.

Karla Slack Alcalá was born and raised in Mexico City, and is in love with her country, customs and traditions, Canning said. From a very young age, Alcalá had a passion for dancing, and at the age of 8 years, her mother “noticed her eagerness and thankfully enrolled her in Mexican folklore dance classes,” she said.

“Karla has over 25 years of teaching experience serving at Casa de Cultura de Acolman, Grupo Mexicatlalli, and at other dance school programs in Mexico. She holds a diploma in Art from CEDART Luis Spota and is an interdisciplinary artist and physical and wellness educator who focuses her efforts on Mexican traditions, Canning said.

“Karla has taught, performed, and choreographed numerous dance programs within the Mexican territory and in other countries like Cuba, Belgium, Spain, Basque country and Guatemala,” she said. “She loves movement and obtained a degree in Physical Education. She believes that sports and dance are perfect tools for our abilities and the development of motor skills. In her dance classes, there was always time to play and integrate sports.”

In 2013, Alcalá left Mexico for the United States and is now making the Rochester area her second home. With a goal to preserve the soul of Mexico, she is leading Alma de Mexico program as the artistic director and is responsible for three different groups of children, youth, and adults. The program’s principal objective is​ to show her Mexican culture through music, costumes, and folkloric dance, Canning said.

“We're very excited to bring Womba Africa Drumming and Dance, Ghanaian master drummers and dancers who have recently moved to the Rochester region. Along with Alma de Mexico, and Nisaa Belly Dance, these artists lead audiences into their unique cultural traditions through a shared enjoyment of rhythm, movement, color, and sheer joy of making music,” she said. “There are many connections audiences will find as they listen and watch -- and move.”

On the musical side, event coordinator Paul Draper has a slew of bands to fill out the day into the evening with tunes. The lineup includes:

The Ghost Riders
Groove
Warren Skye and Friends
Kissin' Whiskey
DriVen
The Trolls 2.0
Lonesome Road
Marnie Kay and the Nonblonds
Beethoven's Dream Group
Sierra
Jostepa Trio
Noah Gokey
The Bluesway Band
Zackstreet Boys
Steve Kruppner
Tom Ryan and Friends
PD3
Knaudt and Chua
Vette
Midnight Cruisers
Brick
Spare Parts
High Pines
The Remediators
Bad Sign

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