Daily Bruin (UCLA)

MUSIC: Artists fuse West African, Indian cultures for unique performance

Computerized rhythm, dancer unite

by Michelle Zubiate

January 22, 1999

When mixing ancient cultures, new technology, passionate dance and electronically synthesized music, the result becomes a work of pride and emotion. In this day, the worlds of music and dance often combine to create a totally unique experience. Here, under the rules of true art, the boundaries between old and new no longer exist.

Believing in this new concept and technique, dancer Taembe Orismekusa and musician Michael Robinson will give the UCLA community a production this evening that is described as "a confluence of Indian raga-inspired music and West African-inspired dance."

The show marks a unique performance in the UCLA arts division where the dance will be accompanied not by live instruments but by computer generated ones.

"Many people find my music very expressive and very spiritual," Robinson says. "There are always those, however, who are turned off to it because they know it's coming from a computer and won't even listen to it. I don't let that deter me, however. I just follow my instincts."

Although influenced by all varieties of music from Bach to The Doors, Robinson has found his passion and focus on world music cultures from places such as India, Africa and South America.

Robinson has produced over 20 CDs of his music thus far, and currently works as a music archivist for the UCLA Ethnomusicology Archive.

"It's been a great experience for me so far," Robinson says. "I get to listen to old music for hours and then transfer them from tape to CDs. For instance, I spent a lot of time recently listening to rare music from Uganda which not many people have ever heard."

Robinson feels that using a computer as a medium for his music has been rewarding. He has the opportunity to use many different instruments while creating something totally original that expresses our times of technology with talented content and depth.

In Orismekusa, Robinson found a dancer that could interpret his music and add a uniquely visual component to the spirituality Orismekusa puts into this sound.

"It's funny that Taembe and I just met by chance in the Kerkoff Coffee House," Robinson says. "We were both looking for projects to do at the time and everything fell into place."

Orismekusa is a graduate student of dance and ethnology studies in the World Arts and Cultures department. Dancing since she was seven years old, Orismekusa feels that dance is only one form of art that she loves, among many others.

"I started off dancing when I was little wanting to someday become a black ballerina," Orismekusa says. "Then I gave all that up and started getting into solely academics, until I found that arts again in college."

Since then, Orismekusa has played with different art mediums from architecture to dancing and new visions of film in her future. This performance marks her first solo performance at UCLA.

"The dance, I would say, is a structured improv," Orismekusa says. "Improv to me means that you take a theme but make up movements as you go along. I practice my dances over and over again so that they basically have the same structure and idea but can change a little every time I do it."

Both artists hope tonight's show will be a success in which they can convey their personal tastes and passions within a beautifully cultured theme.

"I've been wanting to study Indian dance for awhile," Orismekusa says. "Robinson's music brings out in me the Eastern essence and allows the music and movement to flow out of me."

DANCE: Orismekusa and Robinson will perform tonight at 8 p.m. in the Gamelan Room of Schoenberg Hall. Admission is free.