The music that the African Ensemble is performing is a small part of the diverse and rich musical heritage of Africa. The music is of the Ashanti people of the central region and the Ewe-speaking people from the coastal region of Ghana, West Africa and is characterized by its "hot" rhythmic content. The instruments contained in this ensemble are the Gankogui bells, Axaste, and many carved drums including the Kaganu, the Kidi, the Sogo, the Atsimevu, the Atumpan, and the Donno.
This ensemble introduces students to the techniques and rhythms of Afro-Cuban folkloric and popular music. This music, born of African slaves transplanted to Cuba in the 17th and 18th centuries, is rich in West African history and culture. The rumba family of folkloric styles includes yambu, rumba Columbia, and guaguanco and can be traced directly to the Yoruba people in Nigeria. These traditional styles, in addition to the popular cha-cha-cha, mambo, and the mozambique are performed by the ensemble.
Escolas de Samba, or "Samba Schools," are part of the tradition of the Brazilian Carnival street parades. Every year, these ensembles, which number in the thousands, are formed from various members of different communities and take to the streets during the Carnival celebration. One ensemble alone can have as many as 600 percussionists and up to 4000 dancers. The style of Samba that these ensembles perform is called Batacuda. The Batacuda ensemble consists of a variety of percussion instruments such as the Caixa, the Pandiero, the Tambourim, the Frigidera, the Agogo Bells, the Reco-Reco, the Ganza and Chocalho, the Repinique, and Surdos.
There are three classical percussion ensembles at UNT. Two are comprised of undergraduate students and the third consists of graduate students with some upper-classmen. These ensembles perform regularly and are devoted to contemporary and classical percussion ensemble literature. The graduate ensemble has premiered new works and recently performed at PASIC 2000 in Dallas, Texas. This ensemble has future collaborations with the distinguished Van Cliburn Foundation as well as a recording project.
UNT has two drumlines, the indoor drumline and the UNT Green Brigade Marching Band drumline. The indoor drumline has won the PASIC College Marching Drumline Competition 13 times and has been recognized as a leader in indoor drumline performance. This unique ensemble combines the diverse styles of world percussion music with the traditions of the marching ensemble. From steel pan to Latin hand drums, look for a variety of sounds from this energetic ensemble. Their exciting presentations offer a wide variety of visual effects, drill and choreography.
The heart of the Pop/Contemporary ensemble are the keyboard percussion instruments supported by MIDI keyboard percussion instruments and rhythm section. The ensemble performs jazz and fusion selections arranged by faculty members and UNT students. Often the group has appeared on campus with guest artists such as Gregg Bissonette, Andy Narell and many others.
Gamelan, a term for various types of orchestras played in Indonesia,is the main element of Indonesian traditional music. In Bali, orchestras of tuned gongs, bronze kettles, bronze metallophones, bamboo xylophones, drums, cymbals and flutes fill the night air with animated music. UNT students explore this unique musical genre of Balinese Gamelan weekly and present concerts and clinics every semester. The UNT Gamelan orchestra has unique carvings on the frames, which includes scenes from the Indian epic, the Ramayana, adding to the performance enjoyment.
The Indian percussion ensemble developed in South India due to the availability of a wide variety of percussion instruments and used in temple rituals. These instruments are different in every state. There are specific rhythms assigned to different rituals. As the Karnatic (South Indian) music adapted a concert format during the early 20thcentury, instruments such as Mridangam (Two headed barrel drum), Kanjira (Frame drum), Ghatam (Clay pot), Morsing (Jew’s harp) and Konnakol (Vocal percussion) developed into an ensemble, improvisatory in nature with a healthy spirit of competition among the performers.. The ensemble performs compositions based on Karnatic music, a South Indian microtonal, modal art form, built upon a highly developed theoretical foundation, with melody and rhythm as its two vectors.
Instead of teaching students to play traditional instruments, Poovalur Sriji, a master mridangam player, conceived and encourages ensemble members to make music with their own instruments, therefore, some type of instrumental proficiency is required.
Steel drum bands, a trademark of the Caribbean, are rapidly growing in popularity in the United States. These bands originated in Trinidad where groups participating in Carnival activities played on paint cans and oil barrels, which have tuned areas beaten into their surfaces. The various sets of drums, which are constructed by hand from 55-gallon oil drums, comprise a family of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass voices. Since their creation, steel drum construction has become a highly developed art form. Today, the "pan" is a legitimate, versatile instrument capable of expressing delicate passages in classical music as well as in traditional upbeat calypso marches and popular dance music. In 1982, UNT became one of the first universities to start a steel band program. UNT students currently have the opportunity to perform in two steel bands.