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[Africa Forum] Traditional Korean, African dances celebrate ties

May 26, 2024 - 16:00 By Choi Si-young
The Little Angels perform during the Africa Day 2024 Korea Business Forum at the Swiss Grand Hotel on Thursday. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)

Traditional Korean and African dances by both the Little Angels and TAGG marked the Africa Day 2024 Korea Business Forum on Thursday, with a side event introducing African food and craft.

Twenty-three members of the Little Angles opened the celebrations with “buchaechum,” or fan dance, followed by the singing of “A Beautiful Country,” a Korean song, at the forum cohosted by Herald Media Group and the African Group of Ambassadors at the Swiss Grand Hotel Convention Center in Seoul.

“A Whole New World” from the musical “Aladdin” came next, highlighting the theme of the forum, “When African Possibilities Meet Korean Capabilities.” “Malaika,” a Swahili song, ended the performance by the Little Angels, a performance troupe of elementary and middle school girls, which celebrates its 62nd anniversary this year.

The nine-member, Korea-based African Dance Company TAGG took the stage next with “Djarabi-Makru,” a performance echoing the musical traditions of Mali and Guinea, known for rapid changes in steps and rhythm.

“Afropop Mix and Live Coupe-decale,” a more contemporary piece many associate with modern-day street dance, capped the evening’s performances.

Kwon Lee Eun-jung, founder and president of TAGG, said she hoped to see “some genuine appreciation,” noting African culture, dance in particular, deserves more credit for its originality.

“Africa is the source of all arts. Nevertheless, African arts are sometimes marginalized and underrecognized. That’s just not right,” said Kwon Lee, 42, a Korean national who married a Beninese-Ivorian dancer and choreographer in 2018, two years after launching TAGG.

Diabate Yacouba, 28, who has been living in Korea since April 2019, said his participation in Thursday’s celebrations was one way to revisit cultures that often go unnoticed.

“The stage was smaller than we had thought, but we made it work,” Diabate said of the performance during which he played the balafon, a West African xylophone. He was one of the three players, the other two playing the djembe and dunun, West African drums.

Thursday’s forum -- held ahead of the first summit between Korea and African countries slated to be held June 4-5 at Kintex in Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province -- featured national dishes and delicacies prepared by 13 African countries, from Morocco and Tunisia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Africa.

Six African nations -- Rwanda, Ghana, Angola, Morocco, Algeria and Sierra Leone -- set up booths displaying traditional crafts and accessories.

African Dance Company TAGG performs during the Africa Day 2024 Korea Business Forum at the Swiss Grand Hotel on Thursday. (Im Se-jun/The Korea Herald)