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Mogauwane Mahloele, a master of African musical traditions and instruments, will join forces with Art Ensemble of Chicago percussionist Famoudou Don Moye three times at Lafayette’s Williams Center for the Arts Feb. 1 and 2. The performances, part of Lafayette’s celebration of Black History Month, will feature a variety of instruments that many different cultures have developed over the years.

At 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, the pair will play “Music from the Africa Diaspora,” combining world, jazz and African music. Tickets cost $15 and may be purchased by calling the box office, (610) 330-5009.

At noon Thursday, Feb. 1, the musicians will give a presentation for students in the Introduction to World Music course taught by J. Larry Stockton, professor and head of the music department. Later that day, they will present “Festive Sharing” at 8 p.m., when the audience will be free to dance to the music. Both events are free and open to the public.

The pairing is a natural partnership, notes Ellis Finger, Lafayette’s director of cultural programs, because Mahloele has toured with the Art Ensemble of Chicago in Europe. “In the 1970s and 80s, the band was one of the leading Afrocentric jazz groups,” says Finger. “They have been known for being very theatrical in their performances, with special costuming, some facial paint decorations, chants, vocal effects, and sacred blessings from African culture.”

Mahloele is accomplished in the drums, kora, ballofone, and exotic bowed instruments. He was born in Storomo and raised in Tshwane ya Mamelodi, South Africa among the BaPedi people, known for their versatility in music and instrumentation. He began making drums and learning the traditional songs of South Africa after being apprenticed at age five to a master drummer and drum maker. His mentors impressed upon him not only technique and particular rhythms and music, but also a deep seriousness in the ethics and aesthetics of his culture and social structure. His struggles against the apartheid system in which he grew up framed his music. Mahloele now makes his home in the Philadelphia area. His playing has been called “a whirlwind of inventiveness and raw energy on African drums” by the Swazi Observer.

Along with more than 40 years of musical experience, Mahloele is skilled as a sculptor, painter, actor, and audio engineer. He has toured throughout Africa, Europe, and the United States as a performer and teacher, displaying his sculptures, paintings, and musical instruments. Mahloele has performed at the Clef Club, Temple University, Beaver College, Eastern State Penitentiary, and internationally known venues. He has collaborated with artists as diverse as Homer Jackson, Khan Jamal, Odeon Pope, Dudu Phukwana, Joe Malinga, Hugh Masekela, and Moye.

Moye was born in Rochester, New York to a family of musicians. In 1965, he left the United Sates and went to Europe with the Detroit Free Jazz Band. Playing all over the continent, he eventually settled in Rome and worked at RAI (Italian Radio and Television). During a visit to Tangiers in 1969, he met one of his major influences, Randy Weston, and worked extensively with Moroccan musicians. After moving to Paris, he met and studied with another major influence, Art Taylor. By 1971, Moye had moved to Chicago and became permanent drummer with the Art Ensemble of Chicago.

Moye regularly performs and records with Lester Bowie’s Brass Fantasy, The Leaders, and The Kirk Lightsey Trio, among others. His discography numbers more than 60 recordings, including over 30 with the Art Ensemble of Chicago. Moye also works with his own Sun Percussion Ensemble and is committed to the development of young musicians. “Through the discipline of music, I hope to develop myself to the highest level as a human being, to bring to the public a greater awareness of the value and role of great black music as a universal art form and a vehicle of peace, and to create a legacy for future generations of musicians,” he says.

Moye also is president of Art Ensemble of Chicago Publishing Company and AECO Products. He is vice president of international affairs for Straight Ahead Productions.

This project is partially supported by a grant from Pennsylvania Performing Arts on Tour, a program developed and funded by the Vira I. Heinz Endowment; the William Penn Foundation; the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency; and The Pew Charitable Trusts; and administered by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

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