Ever heard of an “ilimba,”ng’oma or a “filimbi ya mwanzi?” They’re two three traditional Tanzanian musical instruments of the Wagogo people of Dodoma, central Tanzania, and Kedmon Mapana can play both three of them.
Mapana is at Seattle Pacific University studying for a doctoral degree in education with a music focus. He performs his cultural instruments, as well as dances and sings, for workshops, schools, and churches in the Seattle area and around the world. Mapana’s passion is music education; more specifically, the music of the Gogo culture in Tanzania.
For Mapana, who grew up in Chamwino, a small village in the middle of Tanzania, music has always been a part of life. His parents were musicians with no formal training. “My father drummed and danced around always,” Mapana says. Later, the son was happily surprised to find out that teaching music was something for which he could go to school.
How he traveled more than 9,000 miles to Seattle, Mapana calls “a long story.” He first earned an undergraduate degree at Tanzania’s University of Dar es Salaam, then a master’s degree. In the course of his studies, he was introduced to Barbara Lundquist, a music education professor emeritus at the University of Washington (UW). Lundquist was so struck by Mapana’s passion and skill in music and teaching that 2007 (last year) she offered to pay his way to the United States for advanced studies. Mapana accepted.
Shortly after his arrival, Lundquist introduced Mapana to her former student, Ramona Holmes, chair of the music department at Seattle Pacific. Both women encouraged him. Impressed with SPU, he decided to apply. 2009, He was accepted, but first had to learn English as a third language (Gogo and Swahili are his first and second). He went through a quarter of ACE (American Cultural Exchange Language Program) at SPU, and discovered “the teachers are very helpful.”
Now that he’s working on his doctoral degree, Mapana says that he’s interested in two things. He wants to go back to Tanzania and make sure that singing and dancing are well incorporated in Tanzanian school curricula. “I’m very passionate about that,” he says in his focused English.
Second, he wants to examine the possibility of creating a Gogo cultural center in Tanzania. “We are very rich, musically,” Mapana says of his country. “But people are shifting to the music of the West. God gave Tanzanians their own gift of music and we need to use it.” As a start of this cultural centre, Mapana established a Wagogo festival in 2005 in the Anglican Church with the focus of using traditional Wagogo music to praise God. This year the festival will be held July 17, 2010.
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