Musical energy brings audience to its feet

SUQUAMISH — The immense energy of the Git Hoan musicians’ performance last weekend was nearly overwhelming as audience members danced to the beat of Native American ceremonial drumming.

The group, led by Tsimshian native and Kingston resident David Boxley, was part of the West Sound Academy’s “Coming Full Circle” forum April 12 at Suquamish Tribal Gym. Three groups from regional cultures shared their ancestral music with members of the Kitsap community at the event.

“I love seeing the community celebrating together,” said Sarah van Gelder, the co-chair of the Suquamish Olalla Neighbors, one of the groups that co-sponsored the evening. “There really is a good energy here tonight.”

The Suquamish Tribe, The Jewel Box Theatre and Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council were also sponsors.

Besides Git Hoan, the groups Na Mele ‘O Hawai’i and Akoma performed in the packed gymnasium.

Na Mele ‘O Hawai’i is a non-profit organization of Hawaiians living in the Pacific Northwest that perform traditional and spiritual dances throughout the United States and Canada. Dancer Scott Camacho said the environment of the group is very tight, family-like and yet, is open any one of any race.

“It shows how different races can come together,” he explained. “It’s about the culture but it’s also about understanding culture.”

Boxley founded his mask dance group to help revive the Tsimshian culture — a native tribe of Alaska. He has been writing songs native to his tribe, carving ceremonial masks and designing ceremonial clothing for his group’s performances as well.

“We can, as native people, can write new songs in this modern time,” he said, noting most of the songs that he has written are less than 20 years old but they portray his culture.

Akoma, a group of Ghanaian drummers from Seattle, performed using

various sets of West African drums, including the Kete, a set of four drums adorned in black and red checkered cloth and played by pounding sticks and hands.

After playing a few songs and watching small pockets of the audience dancing to their primitive beats, drummer Yaw Amponsah was encouraged by room’s energy.

“I’m just feeling the vibe out here, it’s incredible,” Amponsah said.

Beth Soukup, one of the organizers for the event, said she felt everyone benefited from the performances and sharing of cultures.

“After working on this project for the past year, what I have learned is that it is possible to live in the Northwest and not have a clue as to the complexity, sophistication, rich heritage, strength of family ties and warmth of the native cultures,” she said. “It was obvious in the performances (Saturday) night that the audience was thirsting to know more — about the Tsimshian, Suquamish, S’Klallam, as well as about the first

peoples of Ghana and the Hawaiian Islands. That bodes well for the future of us all.”

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