African music and improv come together at Mt. Airy Art Garage

Traditional African drumming, a middle school choir group and an improv troop came together at Mt. Airy Art Garage for African drummer Ron Kravitz’s show, “Underground at Ron’s Goes Aboveground.”

The different groups put on contemporary acts while Kravitz’s traditional African drums and guitars near the stage joined the shows with their own improvisational songs and dances to create an “East meets West” theme.

Kravitz has been hosting improvisational music jams at his Wyndmoor home for nearly two decades and hosting “underground” shows about five times a year. He curates his “above-ground” shows when he is inspired by locations like Mt. Airy Art Garage, where he is a member, and believes he can attract larger audiences.

Playback Theatre performed improv shorts based on the audience’s stories and feelings as a part of their reunion show. The national group had a Philadelphia location with the guidance of Sarah Halley, the artistic director of the troop who served as one of the show’s curators.

“Ron has been a musician for us for many years,” Halley said. “When I talked with Ron about doing a reunion performance, it was his idea to hook it up with the choir.”

The chorale group was the final act and had parents sitting on the edge of their seats gleaming with smiles. The students sang some songs in traditional African form, with accompanying artists like Kravitz and Quint, who guided the students during practices and rehearsals. Kravitz synced other contemporary music with traditional African drumming and music, giving a traditional angle to music the pop top-100 dance songs the choir sang.

The choral director at Jenkintown middle/high school, Alyssa Davidson, was excited to introduce multicultural music to her students and said she hopes to continue brining Kravitz in for more lessons on his skill in traditional African music.

“They get to see different kinds of instruments from all over the world,” Davidson said.

The Jenkintown Select Vocal Ensemble, composed of seventh, eight and ninth grade students, performed traditional African songs and pop music with the guidance of Kravitz and Davidson, who have been working together for more than five years.

For Kravitz, the combination of such a diverse group of performers was ideal.

“This is a little dream connection that I’ve imagined — and now it’s actually happening,” Kravitz said.

Originally published on

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