At the end of June 2013, professor and former chair of the Department of Ethnomusicology Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje will retire from UCLA after thirty-four years of teaching and research. In honor of her contributions, the department held a reception on Thursday, May 23, 2013 on the Schoenberg patio. The event included a number of speeches as well as high-energy performances by members of the African American Ensemble, the Music and Dance of West Africa Ensemble, and a xylophone solo by S.K. Kakraba Lobi (son of the venerable master).
Speakers included Christopher Waterman, Dean of the School of the Arts and Architecture; Tim Rice, Director of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music; Darnell Hunt, Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies; Edmond Keller, Former Director of the James S. Coleman African Studies Center; Marla Berns, Director of the Fowler Museum at UCLA; Aaron Bittel and Maureen Russell, Archivists, UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive.
Current graduate students Jesse Ruskin (Ph.D. ’13), Eric Schmidt, and Katie Stuffelbeam also spoke. Kimasi Browne (Ph.D. ’05) a former student and co-editor with Jean Kidula (Ph.D. ‘98) of a festschrift in DjeDje’s honor, spoke movingly about DjeDje’s influence on him and his fellow Ph.D. students.
There were also soul-stirring performances, first by approximately fifty members of the African American Ensemble, directed by James Roberson and Jonli Tunstal, with piano accompaniment by Barry Brewer. The group sang the Negro spiritual “I Opened My Mouth to the Lord,” gospel favorite “I Shall Wear a Crown,” and a praise and worship song “We Worship You.” Next, members of the West African Ensemble performed Bamaya, a harvest festival dance, with dancers Yeko Ladzekpo-Cole and Jun Reichl, and drummers Andrew Grueschow, Justin Bardales, Neili Sutker, and Derrick Spiva Jr.
Ensemble director Kobla Ladzekpo rounded out the program by reciting a song/poem in the Ewe language: “We don’t have anything to offer you/but we do have a song/because ‘fowl never thank a rubbish dump.’” The song could be loosely translated as: “you can’t thank someone who has done so much for you; you can’t even thank them enough.” Those were fitting concluding words.
For more information: “Highlights from the Ethnomusicology Archive: The Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje Collections,” by Maureen Russell.