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January 18, 2013

Roxbury Arts Group to celebrate Black History Month with duo

By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star

---- — The Roxbury Arts Center is gearing up for an ambitious celebration of Black History Month with a program that features music, song and dance — and an open invitation to school children in nearby communities.

At 1 p.m. on Feb. 6, the Bethany & Rufus Roots Project will be joined by master drummer Gaston “Bonga” Jean-Baptiste on the Haitian drum and kalimba as well as by modern Afro-Caribbean dancer Sheila Anozier. The event will be at the Roxbury Arts Center, located at 5025 Vega Mountain Road in Roxbury.

Arts Center director Maggie Cullen said she is expecting a big turnout for the event.

“We were able to get these great performers who go all over the world with their music, and one of their projects is to bring forth the history from slavery through the civil rights,” she said.

The “Bethany” in Bethany and Rufus is Bethany Yarrow, daughter of Peter Yarrow, one of the founding members of the legendary folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. She has a home in Schoharie County. She and cello player Rufus Cappadocia are no strangers to the arts center, having participated in a block party celebration last summer sponsored by the organization in Stamford.

“Bethany has a gorgeous voice, and she also plays the guitar,” Cullen said. “With Rufus, you could just sit there all day and listen to him play the cello.”

The cello and voice duo of Bethany and Rufus are known for “sliding seamlessly between groove, world, blues and traditional folk music,” according to promotional material for the event. “When Bethany Yarrow and Rufus Cappadocia join forces on stage they spark a fire-in-the-belly, soul-stirring experience of American roots music,” according to a Facebook posting for the event.

Cappadocia traces the roots of American music with his experience playing West African, Haitian Voudou and Arabic music.

“This is history via music,” Cullen said.

One local school has already indicated that about 100 children will be attending the performance, she noted. If the expected audience keeps growing, she said, it is possible that a second performance will be added for the morning.

Jean-Baptiste is known as “Bonga.” He has won rave reviews as a musical virtuoso who has performed and studied traditional Haitian drum, dance and song since the age of seven. He began playing drums in his hometown of Croix-des-Mission in La Plaine, an area of Haiti known for culture and history.

Regarded as a master of the Afro Haitian drum, he has an extensive repertoire of pan-African rhythms, according to the arts center. He is one of the few drum experts and craftsmen outside of Haiti who continues to build traditional drums using techniques that are centuries old.

Anozier began formal training in dance at Long Island University. She has performed at venues and festivals in the U.S. and around the world, including Nuits Atypiques de Langon in France, Ha Noi Opera House, White Palace Convention Center in Vietnam, the Montreal International Jazz Festival in Canada, Vollos Festival in Greece, The Hague Holland Dance Festival in the Netherlands, and the Altstadtherbst Festival in Germany. She has also performed at numerous venues in New York, including Town Hall and the Lincoln Center.

Tickets are $2 for youth/students and $5 for adults.Tickets and more information can be obtained by contacting the Roxbury Arts Center at 326-7908.

Cullen recommended that tickets be obtained in advance of the performance date.