Kulu Mele presents: Wemilere, Parade of the Orishas

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The Parade of the Orishas is at Taller Puertorriqueño this weekend. (Photo by Jaci Downs.)
The Parade of the Orishas is at Taller Puertorriqueño this weekend. (Photo by Jaci Downs.)

On Saturday, February 16, as part of a collaboration between Taller Puertorriqueño and the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Kulu Mele African Dance and Drum Ensemble will host Wemilere: Parade of the Orishas. Wemilere is a celebration of eight of the most revered Orishas (deities) in Yoruba culture: Elegba, Ogun, Ochosi, Oshun, Yemaya, Shango, Oya, and Obatala.

The event will open with Afro-Cuban drumming as well as a dance performance that highlights the connectedness of African and Afro-Caribbean music through ancient Yoruba tradition.

For the past 50 years, the Philly-based Kulu Mele has honored this tradition of cultural dialogue through live performances and education throughout the world, carrying the spirit of the Orishas with them.

In a 1984 interview with Rolling Stone magazine, acclaimed scholar and author Robert Farris Thompson makes a trip to Haiti to explore of Yoruba language, spirituality, and music. Farris remarks on the deep African roots of global music and dance: “Most of our ballroom dancing is Africanized. The rhumba, the tango, even tap-dancing and the Lindy. Even cheerleading incorporates some apparent Kongo gestures: left hand on hip, right hand raised twirling a baton. It worked its way up from New Orleans’ Vodun Rara bands into the Dallas Cowboys’ halftime show.”

In all of his work (including the classic anthropological work Flash of the Spirit: Afro-American and African Art and Philosophy) Thompson posits African American and Afro-Caribbean culture as the product of a deep and ancient transatlantic dialogue between the African continent and her children who were displaced by the slave trade throughout the Western hemisphere. Showing up in the mainland U.S., Cuba, Haiti, Barbados, Brazil, Puerto Rico, and beyond, this cultural connection and dialogue lives on in the religious practices, art, and popular music of today.

The evening will conclude with an open Q&A.

The celebration happens at Taller Puertorriqueño (2600 North 5th Street) from 5pm to 7pm. It's free and open to the public. For information on accessibility, call 215-426-3311.

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