Sankofa: The History of African-American Music

Sankofa: The History of African-American Music

Students learn elements of Storytelling, Improvisation and Call and Response in American Music through a brilliant mix of TedTalk-style interactive lecture with an exciting live band. During SANKOFA, students learn about oral tradition through the West African storyteller/poet known as the Griot; explore coded language in Spirituals; discover improvisation in Jazz; learn call and response in Reggae, and party with their teachers to classic Hip Hop. Developed by Pierce Freelon, a college professor, hip hop artist, and father of two, the curriculum is entertaining and informative for all ages. SANKOFA is tailored by tone, vocabulary and interactions suited to Elementary, Middle or High School audiences and consistently lauded as “the best assembly EVER” by students and faculty alike. One school who booked SANKOFA said: “The Beast is a truly engaging musical group which teaches African-American history in a fun, effective way. They are wonderful musicians and story-tellers.”

Use these links to view a video excerpt from this program: and

Promo Video:

Artist Background

Beautifully rebellious and refreshingly original, The Beast is one of the most imaginative bands to emerge from North Carolina’s burgeoning music scene. The Durham-based quartet fearlessly navigates worlds of hip hop and jazz with compelling lyrics, progressive compositions and a gripping live show. The Beast is dedicated to education and cultural outreach. The group has developed workshops on creativity, improvisation, and the history of African-American music based on the Blackademics Hip Hop curriculum founded by emcee Pierce Freelon. A professor of African American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill and NC Central University, Freelon’s workshops have reached a multi-generational audience from New York to New Delhi.

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