Bali Spirit Festival, Ubud Bali 2025 Dates TBD

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Ojeya Cruz Banks: West African Percussion + Dance

African percussion fused seamlessly with Indonesian bamboo gamelan last night at the BaliSpirit Festival ( – and African dance came alive with percussion today at the workshop by Ojeya Cruz Banks!

Banks is truly a citizen of the world: her father is African-American and her mother is from Guam in the Pacific; she grew up in the US and now lives in New Zealand. She is not just a fan and performer of African dance, but also a doctorate in dance anthropology from the University of Arizona (!

She had almost a hundred enthusiastic participants at her first workshop at the Bali festival. “This is my first time at the festival – the energy is incredible and I hope to be here next year as well,” she said in an interview after the workshop.

She was accompanied by drummers from Bali’s Hamanah ensemble, who provided terrific support for the dances based on the kassa rhythm. The coucou dance rhythm is also popular, said Banks, and in West Africa there is a tight synergy between singing, percussion and dance.

“The kassa dance is a way to re-charge the energy of farmers,” said Banks. She is a huge supporter of cross-cultural sharing of knowledge through performing arts. Banks also taught the audience a song from Guinea in the susu language. The participants sat down on the floor to learn the song, and then leapt up again with another high-energy dance session.

Banks has participated in Jacob’s Pillow School of Dance, and is the artistic director of the Dance Lab, a dance research collective. She is devoted to preserving and celebrating indigenous knowledge from places such as Guinea, West Africa and Aotearoa/New Zealand. She has studied dance in Uganda, Zanzibar, Mali, Guinea, Senegal and Cuba.

Make sure you check out her two workshops on West African Guinea dance and Afromodern fusion dance!

Written by : Madanmohan Rao


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