Allows local craftsmen to replace the head of a djembe (hand drum)
Bizung School of Music and DanceTamale, Ghana
The Bizung School of Music & Dance is thriving with more than 200 students. It is located in Tamale, Ghana, hometown of Mohammed Alidu, who has played percussion with the Playing For Change Band. Alidu is a descendant of a long line of talking drum chiefs known as the "Bizung" that have lived in the area for more than 1,000 years. In his family's honor, this place of inspiration has aptly been named the Bizung School of Music and Dance.
The school offers music and dance classes that are rooted in the traditional style of Northern Ghana. Children have a safe and nurturing environment in which to learn, as well as opportunities to share their cultural and musical traditions with other children around the world.
Construction of the Bizung School was completed in February of 2010, and after hiring teachers, planning curriculums, and enrolling students, classes began on May 17, 2010. Courses are currently offered in drumming, dance, xylophone, gonje, keyboard, guitar and vocals. For many students of the Bizung School of Music and Dance, taking classes here is their first time attending a school of any kind, as there are currently no other tuition-free schools in the northern region of Ghana.
Since opening in 2010, the Bizung School continues to grow with the addition of an open-air classroom to accommodate more children and a van to go out into the surrounding areas and transport children who would not be able to participate otherwise. A music studio has been opened for the students to learn how to use recording equipment and editing software--skills they use to tell their own stories and share their music, and which advance their education and work opportunities.
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Buys materials to repair and expand the school building and outdoor classroom
Meet our Students
Halik is from Tamale, Ghana, and has been attending the Bizung School of Music and Dance... more
A New Van for BizungBy Benjamin Cohn
Fulbright-MTVu Fellowship recipient Benjamin Cohn raises more than $3,000 in 6 weeks on IndieGoGo to fund a new passenger van for the Bizung School of Music and Dance in Tamale, Ghana – a project that receives sponsorship from the Playing For Change Foundation. more
Life in the Community
Tamale is a city with more than 300,000 inhabitants and is the capital of the Northern region of Ghana. The main languages spoken in the area are Dagbani and English, and most of the inhabitants are Muslims. The people of Tamale live by the sun. They wake at 5:30AM for morning prayers, and go to sleep shortly after sunset. The Bizung School of Music and Dance is located in an area of town called the Norrip Village. Every afternoon from Monday to Friday, dozens of kids attend classes at the school to study music and dance. Most of the students live in the area but some of them come from other parts of Tamale to attend classes traveling by bicycle, walking or carried by one of the teachers.
What We're Learning
Traditional Music and Dance
The Bizung School of Music and Dance offers classes in traditional music, focusing on traditional instruments such as talking drum, djembé, palogo, gonge and xylophone. Classes are also given in dance, chant and keyboard. The kids also learn how...more...
The Jera Dance
Jera is a potent dance. As with most dances in the North, the history of Jera is deep, obscure and mysterious. Most sources trace the origin to one particular hunter called Nanja who, while in the bush, came across an ill omen: group of dwarfs. ...more...
The Adowa Dance
Surely one of the most stately, graceful, dances in West Africa, the Akan “Adowa” takes its name from the impressive animal, the antelope. With its silent, swift movements, the antelope is evocative of the ideal warrior, and that is how this...more...
The xylophones at Bizung are not indigenous to the tribes of the Northern Region. We brought them here from Lawra in the Upper West region of Ghana, close to the borders of Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire. The big frames and the dangling gourds...more...
The gonje is a mysterious instrument—strange and uncanny even to those among whom its playing is commonplace. The sounds, the technique, and the crafting of the gonje all make for an intensely singular aural experience. Decorated with scarves and...more...
Gahle refers to traditional maracas. The gourd accompanying the gonje is called gahle, although popularly the instrument is referred to as “Zabia”, the name of those who play the gahle. This instrument, with little black seeds hidden inside, is...more...
The hefty cylindrical bass guŋ-gᴐŋ carved from cedar, called brekete in Southern Ghana, has a slender hide snare (chahira) strung right across the top portion of both broad leather faces. When the curved stick strikes and the left hand slaps above...more...
Kpanlogo is a type of drum that is associated with kpanlogo music. The drum originates from the Ga people of the Greater Accra Region in Ghana. The drum has a tapered body carved from a single piece of wood that is similar in shape to a conga. The...more...
The Dagomba lunga is an hourglass shaped tension talking drum, variations of which are known more widely across the subcontinent as don-don. Fastened on the shoulder with a scarf, the lunga is fitted beneath the armpit and beaten with a curved...more...
Co-Founder, Artistic Director & Percussion Teacher
Mohammed Alidu was born and raised in Tamale, into the Bizung lineage of talking drum... more
Music Teacher, Trumpet
Alex is a talented musician and teacher who plays the trumpet and also leads the army... more
Afeku "Frank" Komla
Keyboard and Theory Teacher
Frank is an Ewe man who has lived in Tamale for three years. In his youth, Frank started... more
Abdul-Samed is a gonje musician, first learning this traditional horse-hair violin as a... more
A very talented drummer and teacher, Charles was born in Tamale on June 8th, 1992 to his... more
Drum & Dance Teacher
Suali teaches percussion and dance at the Bizung School. His natural authority and... more
Adam “Dallah" Abduli
Adam Abduli, or “Dallah" as he’s known by his friends, is the nephew of... more
Ibrahim Samuel, or Mr. Sammy, as the students know him, was born on the 9th of December... more
Benedict Ali Kolaan
Benedict Ali Kolaan is a music teacher and ethnomusicologist specializing in African... more
Prince Mahama is something of a living legend in Northern Ghana. During the 1980s he was... more