West African music and culture are the focus of two back-to-back events this week in Ashland.




The new Southern Oregon University West African Cultural Drumming Ensemble will perform "Mask Dances," traditional and popular arrangements of percussion music from Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone at 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, at Southern Oregon University's Music Recital Hall, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Ashland.




This special performance "Mask Dances," traces the heritage and meaning of several ceremonial masks and the music and dance that accompany them in West Africa. The show will be highlighted by special guest and master drummer from Guinea, M. Lamine Dibo Camara and dancers from Denbaya, Inc.




Ryan M. Camara teaches the SOU West African Cultural Drumming Ensemble as a one-unit performance course designed to immerse students in the traditional music and culture of West Africa. Students learn the traditional music of the jembe and dundun orchestra in a hands-on performance-ensemble setting fostering group participation, awareness, respect and appreciation.




Tickets are $8 general admission and free for students. Proceeds go toward music department scholarships. See /music or call 552-6101.




Baga Fete, a traditional celebration of West African music, dance and culture, will take place at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 2, at the Wellsprings 2253 Hwy. 99 N., Ashland.




Continuing in the long tradition of "themed" cultural events, Denbaya will present the first event showcasing the renowned art, music, dance and culture of the Baga ethnic group in Guinea, West Africa. The Baga group is the only ethnic group in Guinea where women traditionally play drums. The Baga bitterly resisted slavery and colonialism and continued to practice many of their traditional rites even while under colonial occupation.




The Baga Fete will feature:




1 to 2:30 p.m. Dance class with Alseny Yansane — to 4:30 p.m. Drum class with M. Lamine Dibo Camara 5 to 6:30 p.m. Dance class with Alseny Yansane 8 to 10 p.m. Kakilambe evening celebration/performance




Classes are $20 each, performance tickets are $10. Tickets are available at Music Coop, Ashland. See or call 951-9995.