African musician shares his culture at Appalachian

Michael Bragg

Masankho Kamsisi Banda is different than many musical guests that come to the university in terms of his musical upbringing.

“Being from Malawi, we were brought up with the kind of music that Americans call ‘traditional African music,’” Banda said.

Banda is a member of the non-profit organization LEAF located in Black Mountain, which is dedicated to connecting local and global cultures and creating community through music and arts.

Banda has come to Appalachian this week as a representative of LEAF, and more specifically their Learning in Streets and Schools program.

Banda is an interplay-based teacher, relying on group participation and involvement through his entire workshop.

“It is always fun to teach my songs and dances to people that aren’t familiar with them,” Banda said. “I enjoy teaching people of all ages. We are all children when we sing.”

During his teacher’s workshop Wednesday, Banda employed the participants time in traditional singing and dancing.

“I can say I have never experienced anything like I did during my time with Masankho today,” said Watauga High School choral director Lisa Combs. “It was the most fun I have had at a workshop by far.”

Banda has been visiting high schools and universities in western North Carolina in promotion of the upcoming LEAF festival held in Black Mountain.

Music professor Laurie Semmes was also in attendance of Wednesday’s workshop.

“I try to incorporate traditional instruments and dances, practices in my lecture to kind of bring to life what we were learning about in the book,” Semmes said. “Masankho is a testament to these instruments and is an actual native of some of the regions I teach.”

Along with his long career of educating others of his traditional practices, Banda’s accolades include an Unsung Hero of Compassion award by his Holiness The Dalai Lama, and the personal accomplishment of starting his own organization, UCanDanc’ African Healing Arts, located in Oakland, Calif., where Banda resides.

“I always want to teach people something that they might not know, and a lot of people seem to be interested,” said Banda.

Story: WILL GREENE, A&E Reporter