Master drummer C.K. Ladzekpo leading the San Jose / San Francisco Bay Area kekeli ensemble as San Jose State University.

The UMass Datrmouth kekeli ensemble in concert led by Saeed Abbas with Maura McGillicuddy.

The University of the Philippines kekeli ensemble in concert at Abelardo Hall, U.P.

To view videos of kekeli drum and dance please go to royal hartigan's youtube channel.

While teaching at San Jose State University (California) I began an African music and dance program in 1994 as part of its Improvised Music Studies curriculum. The ensemble grew to include community people and eventually became independent of the school. We have done lectures, concerts, and workshops throughout northern California, including jazz festivals, international conferences on progressive politics, ceremonies honoring Jesse Jackson, neighborhood celebrations, First Night/New Year festivals, as well as many benefits for global awareness, animal rights, political justice, women’s rights, homeless people, Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgender/Questioning groups, senior citizens, physically handicapped, and the environment.

The University of Mass Dartmouth Kekeli ensemble developed from my first classes in African music and dance in the spring of 2000, when UMASS Dartmouth students formed the Kekeli African Drum and Dance Club in order to have a regular organization and means of spreading African music, dance, and culture on our campus. We have performed on and off campus an average of 30-40 times each year in formal concerts, lecture-demonstrations, workshops, for art openings, numerous benefits, such as those for victims of the Sudanese Darfur genocide, the Haitian earthquake, and African famine. Our many performances over the years have included Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, jazz festivals, U.S. National Park Service ceremonies, political demonstrations, community outreach, such as for handicapped adult services, elementary, middle and high schools, the AHA! New Bedford arts festival, church and civic events, and international college and university events (Williams College MA, Wesleyan University CT, the New School New York, NY). As a result the Kekeli African Drum and Dance group has significantly enhanced the visibility and connection of African music, song, dance, and culture in the southeastern Massachusetts community.

I was a U. S. J. William Fulbright scholar at the University of the Philippines (UP) during the fall of 2006. My activities included research in the southern kulintang gong and drum ensemble music and the northern gong and bamboo music of the mountain peoples. My other activities included teaching African American jazz styles and world music, whose focus was on the music and dance of Africa. With the support of the UP Collegio ng Musika our Kekeli group became a strong ensemble that performed at universities in the Manila area. The students were so motivated that the ensemble continued. Upon my return in the summers of 2009 as an Asian Cultural Council Fellow, and 2010 as a Whiting and Healey grantee, the group expanded its activities to include workshops, concerts, and cross-cultural performances with jazz ensembles, such as my arrangement of John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme’ Suite with African instrumental music, song, and dance, staged at the Ayala Museum. The University of the Philippines Kekeli ensemble is now an ongoing performing group that is sharing African arts with people in the Philippines. We were able to meet a Ghanaian community in the Philippines and some of its members joined us to pour libation for the ensemble’s newly acquired instruments in August 2010. Their support for present and future projects is an inspiration for our work. In August 2011, the U. P. Kekeli ensemble joined with our Blood Drum Spirit jazz ensemble to give workshops, lecture demonstrations, and concerts at the University of the Philippines Diliman, the University of Santo Tomas, and the inaugural Cultural Center of the Philippines Jazz Festival in Manila.