Kulu Mele, "Orisha Suite" performance. Pictured: Kulu Mele dance captain Ama Schley and dancer/drummer Yusuf Young as the Afro-Cuban orishas (dieties). Photo by Jaci Downs.
Kulu Mele, "Sobuniquin" performance at Jacob’s Pillow Dancce Festival, Beckent, MA. Pictured: James Ali Wilkie and Ira Bond. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
Kulu Mele, "Celebrating Senegal," dancer/drummer Edward Smallwood performs a dance about the Balanta people. Photo by Jaci Downs.
Ronald K. Brown at a Kùlú Mèlé master class on January 5, 2013. Photo © Nathea Lee/PhotoBravura.
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.