ArtsEmerson will bring Step Afrika! back to Boston. The company’s newest work, Drumfolk, will open ArtsEmerson’s 2022/2023 season with two weeks of performances from October 05 – 16, 2022 at the Emerson Cutler Majestic Theatre. This follows the cancellation of the show’s original Summer 2020 Special engagement in Boston. Drumfolk will mark the third time the Boston arts organization has hosted Step Afrika! (Step Afrika! in November 2013, and The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence in May 2018).
Drumfolk is inspired by The Stono Rebellion of 1739, an uprising initiated by 20 enslaved Africans who used their drums to start a revolt in South Carolina. The rebellion was suppressed, and the Negro Act of 1740 took away the rights to assemble, read and use drums from the African people. The production takes audiences on a journey from the then-colony of South Carolina in the 17th century to the present-day, where the instrument has shaped new art forms like hip hop and African American social dance. Drumfolk is a percussive celebration of American history, placing a spotlight on the rhythmic cycle of life that bonds all of us together.
Through music, stepping, and ring shouts, the remarkable performers of Step Afrika! recreate histories too often left in the margins, and achieve a musical and movement-filled celebration of the human spirit that is perfect for entire families to share together.
In June 2022, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) announced Step Afrika! Founder and Executive Producer C. Brian Williams as a 2022 NEA National Heritage Fellowship recipient. The occasion marks the first time that the tradition of stepping has been fully recognized as a part of America’s artistic heritage and culture. The National Heritage Fellowships are the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. Including the 2022 class, the Arts Endowment has awarded 467 National Heritage Fellowships since 1982.
“I am extremely excited to bring Drumfolk to the people of Boston,” says C. Brian Williams. “Drumfolk is the result of over 29 years of intensive research and investigation into the history of stepping, an art form first created by African American fraternities and sororities. And the critically-acclaimed dancers of Step Afrika! are truly the best in the world at stepping.”
“We are thrilled to welcome back Step Afrika! to ArtsEmerson for a third time with their invigorating new show, Drumfolk,” says ArtsEmerson Executive Director David C. Howse. “I continue to be amazed at the brilliance of the company’s ability to tell the important story of the Stono Rebellion with such verve and power. Drumfolk is definitely a show that you feel in your heart, mind and body. Both this show and their return to Boston, long delayed by the pandemic, is a testament to the power of art and persistence.”