Gansango Music & Dance company members based in Seattle, Washington are periodically joined by guest performers based nationally and internationally.
Director, choreographer, lead dancer
Originally from Benin, Etienne is the Artistic Director and lead choreographer/dancer of Gansango Music and Dance. Etienne has been building his repertoire of traditional and modern dance for over thirty years. As director of Gansango Music & Dance, Etienne leads the company’s work with dozens of public libraries, schools and independent arts agencies locally and nationally to make performance of dance and music from Africa available to a wide range of audiences, including young children.
Yaw is a master percussionist from Ghana. Coming from a musical family from West Africa he is at home in the world of rhythm. A versatile player, Yaw can play many styles of music from Ghana including Highlife, Agbadja, Kpanlogo and more. His specialty is the music of the multi-part percussion ensembles of the Ashanti people. These sets of drums and corresponding rhythms can be made up of eight or more independent percussion parts. He is the leader of Anokye Agofomma and a member of Manghis Khan quartet.
Originally from Togo, Kokou Al’nuzan Gbakénou has toured in Europe with various groups, and was twice in residency at l’Ecole des Sables in Senegal. He led the artistic association Circuit Cinéma et Arts Vivants, and collaborated with the French Cultural Center of Lomé, the Goethe Institut, Brin de Chocolat and Théâtre Oriki. He specializes in an original movement technique called “Magan.” Kokou integrates elements of Capoeira, hip hop and pan-African contemporary and traditional dance styles. Currently based in Seattle, he has worked with Gansango since 2014.
Dancer & Drummer
Nailah Harris grew up with drumming and dance all around her, and studied West African drumming and dance, jazz, tap and hip hop from a young age. In addition to performing with Gansango Music & Dance since 2012, Nailah has been a part of ADEFUA, Kutt ‘N’ Up, Nu Black Arts West, Broadway Bound, Kode Red Dance Team and Ladii Entouraj, and runs her own company, Mynd Kuntrol.
Niyafath originates from Benin and has lived in Seattle since 2009. She performs and studies hip-hop, Brazilian and African dance and is a veteran DanceTHIS performer with Seattle Theatre Group. She has been working with Gansango, her father’s company, since 2012. She specializes in urban African style hip-hop seen in popular music videos by young African musical artists. .
Drummer & Percussionist
Greg Campbell teaches ethnomusicology at Cornish College of the Arts and University of Washington Bothell, and has studied African drumming & percussion for many years with Yaw Amponsah and other masters, including Yaw’s father, Daniel ‘Koo Nimo’ Amponsah. He is a core member of Gansango Music & Dance and regularly participates in presentations at schools and community venues.
A master dancer, drummer and choreographer who hails from Benin. He is also a talented costume designer and tailor, and energizes audiences of all ages with his dynamic teaching and performing. Based in Omaha, Nebraska, Charles directs African Culture Connection, an award-winning non-profit organization, and performs with his cultural arts ensemble, Hwendo. Charles joins Gansango Music & Dance for periodic shows in the Pacific Northwest, as well as tours in the United States and abroad. www.ahovissi.com
Originally from Togo, Sylvestre is currently based in New York City. He is the founder of Kor & D’Kor Dance Company and previously danced with the renowned Compagnie Heddy Maalem during a 2008-2009 world tour of Le Sacre du Printemps. He has also worked in Africa and in Europe with La Compagnie Congo Ba Terria, Dunia Dance Theatre and La Compagnie Henry Motra. He joins Gansango Music & Dance regularly for performances in the Seattle area.
Dora De Oliveira
Dora has performed and taught Afro-Brazilian dance for twenty five years. With a dance degree from the prestigious Federal University of Brazil, Dora has worked with many touring dance companies, including Exaltação à Bahia, Oludum, Show Brazil and Gansango Music & Dance. She is versed in jazz, ballet, modern dance, as well as contemporary and traditional African dance and Brazilian dance forms such as the samba and Orisha dance. Dora teaches and performs in the Seattle area. www.dancewithdora.com
Won-Ldy is a master storyteller from Liberia. A member of the Tlo Ker Mehn, a class of professional storytellers who are also accomplished musicians and keepers of Dan oral heritage in Liberia, Won-Ldy has been captivating audiences in the U.S. for over 30 years. His youth was greatly influenced by the Dan cultural phenomenon of masked spirits that appear in many forms. He directed Village Drum and Masquerade, and collaborates regularly with museums and schools to provide authentic cultural education experiences that are entertaining for all ages. Won-Ldy is based in Connecticut and joins Gansango for periodic tours. www.wonldypaye.com
Ghanaian-born Mohammed Shaibu leads the Seattle-based band, Soyaya, with virtuoso acoustic guitar, dynamic talking drum, and lively vocals. The music of Soyaya is a combination of Highlife, Palm Wine, and indigenous Rhythm and Blues. Mohammed performs regularly with Gansango Music & Dance, playing percussion, guitar, and tama (talking drum). His renditions of children’s nursery songs on the talking drum delight audiences of all ages.
Gansango regularly works with guest artist from many countries. Past productions have included collaborations with Achille Acakpo (Benin); Beatrice Aspirot (France); Joselito Atchade (Benin); Marthe Bolda (France/Cameroun); Naby Camara (Guinea); Sarah Carlson (USA); Lian Caspi (USA); Meg Cater (USA); Lora Chiorah-Dye (Zimbabwe); Thione, Mapathé and Gora Diop (Senegal); Thierno Diop (Senegal); Farko Dusomov (Uzbekistan), Jacky Essombe (Cameroun/Canada); Ida Faho (Burkina Faso); Stewart Frasier (USA); Jean-Michel Frenea (France); Michael Gotz (USA); Annabelle Gueredrat (Martinique/France); Cecilia “Cece” Gulley (USA); Carrie Lee Hansen (USA); Nailah “Oni” Harris (USA); Gina Jordan (USA); Rusty Knorr (USA); Hannah Kogan (USA); Karim Koumbassa (Guinea); Ben Leslie (USA); Khaleah London (USA); Deirdre Luvon (USA); Siya Manyakanyaka-Kelley (South Africa); Kathy Manyongo (France/Cameroun); Jimu Makarumbandi (Zimbabwe); Kane Mathis (USA); Bill Matthews (USA); Ana Montes (USA); Deya Nolan (USA); Nikki Pete (USA); Daniel Nery Dos Santos Filho (Mestre Pitta – Brazil); Fathiya Ritter (USA); Arturo Rodriguez (USA); Ab, Teo and Michael Shantz (USA); Rohiatou Siby (USA/Mali); Joshua and Heather Tallis (USA); N’Tifafa Akoko Tété-Rosenthal (Togo); Kayin Thompson (USA); Astou Top (Senegal); Modibo Traore (Senegal); Kevin Turner (UK) and Sakara Tyson (USA).
Gansango is deeply grateful for the talented photographers that we have had the privilege to work with. Most of these individuals have offered their services to us at reduced rates, making it possible for the public to appreciate Gansango’s work through the power of photography. These include: Erik Stuhaug, Christopher Nelson, Adrian McDermott, Stan Staniski, Linda Livingston, Jannie Anderson, Pearl Portraits, Nancy Medwell, Katrina Dartnell and Patrick McKern.