Founded in 1969, Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble preserves and presents the traditional dance and music of Africa and the African Diaspora, and celebrates contemporary African American culture. The company’s performance repertoire features authentic, traditional dance and drumming from West Africa, Cuba, and Brazil, as well as contemporary American hip hop. Kulu Mele performs throughout Philadelphia, tours nationally and internationally, and has performed at venues such as Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and Walt Disney Concert Hall. In 2012, the ensemble received Center support to engage contemporary choreographer Ronald K. Brown in developing new approaches to Kulu Mele’s work. In 2018, they received a Center Project grant to create a new interpretation of a traditional Afro-Cuban Yoruba parable during a company residency with the Cuban performance troupe Ballet Folklórico Cutumba.
Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble traveled to Conakry, Guinea in West Africa for an intensive two-week residency with traditional artists Mariama Touré and M'Bemba Bangoura, and members of Les Ballets Africains and Les Merveilles D'Guinea. Kùlú Mèlé dancers participated in master classes in traditional Guinea dance and drumming styles, and were introduced to choreography from the ballet Mali Sadjo: The Legend of the Hippopotamus. In 2009, Kùlú Mèlé presented the US premiere of Mali Sadjo as part of its 40th anniversary season. The project culminated in a film documenting the group's time in Guinea that was presented at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.