Drumming and Feasting on March 12

In an African village, rhythms of the drums infuse all of life – rituals, celebrations, communication, and even healing. In Princeton, drums will help to heal in a different way. They will beat at the Second Annual African Soiree, a benefit for the United Front Against Riverblindness on Saturday, March 12, at the Princeton Theological Seminary’s Mackay Campus Center, Alexander Street and College Road. Doors open for a silent auction at 5 p.m. and the program – including authentic African food, live music, and dancing to an African DJ – starts at 6 p.m. For $50 tickets ($25 for students) go to http://www.riverblindness.org or call Princeton United Methodist Church at 609-924-2613. Free off-street parking is available.

Following the African feast, provided by cooks from different African countries, the percussionists will begin the entertainment. Each of them – Foluso Mimy, Kolipe Camara, and Ray Philip – has had a distinguished career. For instance, Mimy belongs to the Mandingo Ambassadors, billed as “a living library of musical science,” and Camara, a native of Guinea West Africa, most recently was lead drummer for Les Ballets Africains. At last year’s African Soiree, these drummers accompanied the Umoja Dancers, and their brief solo stint was so interesting that the organizers of the event invited them back.

Mimy will begin with an “Apel,” a solo introduction. Then the three will play together, explaining the rhythms and breaking down each part. Two guests will have a chance to try out the various instruments in the orchestra. “Then we will perform another traditional rhythm displaying how we communicate through the drum,” says Mimy.

A socially disruptive disease, riverblindness starts with an excruciatingly itchy rash, and when it leads to blindness, children must leave school to be full-time caregivers for family members. There is a drug for it, provided free by Merck & Co., but it is a challenge to get the drug to remote villages and ensure that every person takes the drug once a year for at least 10 years.

UFAR is an African-inspired, Lawrenceville-based nonprofit charitable organization that aims, in partnership with other organizations, to eradicate onchocerciasis, known as riverblindness in the Kasongo region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Approximately 21 million of the 60 million people are at risk of getting this disease, according to Daniel Shungu, founder.

Full disclosure: I wrote this as a press release for UFAR. Last year everybody had a wonderful time — good food, lots of fun, great support for the organization. I hope to see you there! BFF

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