The College of Music offers various world music ensembles each semester, open to any students who enroll in the corresponding classes.
Each ensemble puts on one public recital each academic year in Grusin Music Hall.
Contact the director of each individual ensemble for information on enrollment.
Performing high energy, tightly knit traditional, neo-traditional, and highlife dance music from Ghana, CU Boulder’s Highlife Ensemble has audiences dancing in the aisles to its irresistible West African rhythms. The group includes 30 music and non-music majors from across campus. It is the first university ensemble in the U.S. to perform highlife music.
The CU Japanese Ensemble is a class in the College of Music that is dedicated to hands-on learning of Japanese music and dance and is open to all CU students. The group learns a wide variety of music and dance from many regions of Japan. Japanese music is typically based on songs that reflect styles of Japanese poetry, sung in lines of five or seven syllables. Song lyrics evoke images of landscape, seasons, weather, animals and legendary figures of Japan, in order to illustrate Shinto religious ideals of harmony between the gods and human beings in nature, as well as Buddhist themes of the transient nature of existence in this world. Traditional instruments studied by the group include: shamisen (skin-covered, 3-string, plucked lute), shinobue (transverse bamboo folk flute), nokan (transverse bamboo flute from noh drama), taiko (double-headed, barrel-shaped, stick-struck drums of various sizes), kotsuzumi (shoulder-held, hourglass-shaped, pressure drum), and otsuzumi (hip-held, hourglass-shaped drum).
The origins of the word mariachi are obscure, although the earliest groups were formed in the Mexican state of Jalisco. The core instrumentation of the mariachi ensemble includes the violin, the vihuela (small 5-stringed guitar), guitar, and the large horizontal bass called the guitarrón, a Mexican invention that replaced the diatonic harp early in the 20th Century. Trumpets were added to the ensemble with the first recordings and had become standard by the 1950s. The trajes de charro (Mexican cowboy suits) are an important aspect of contemporary mariachi showmanship. More important is the traditional musical showcasing of individuals and choruses in the ensemble. Mariachi music is celebratory in nature. It is common in Mexico for family and friends, or admirers to arrange for a loved one to be serenaded by a mariachi musician at dawn on their birthday, or in the middle of the night. Also, it is the favorite music at weddings and other important family fiestas and for important Mexican celebrations like Cinco de Mayo (Mexican victory over French forces in Puebla on May 5, 1862) and Diez y seis de septiembre (September 16, Mexican Independence from Spain in the 1820s).
Gamelan is a term used to describe a type of music and dance that originates from the Indonesian islands of Java and Bali. On the island of Bali, gamelan is found in many different forms and is represented by several kinds of ensembles such as the one here at CU, Gamelan Genta Kencana (Holy Golden Sound). This set of instruments is a type of gamelan angklung using a five-tone tuning system, originally from the northern area of Singaraja where it is still used today to accompany village religious festivals and ceremonies. Gamelan Genta Kencana, like all gamelan in Bali, is considered sacred, and was created especially for CU Boulder and purchased with funds from the Chancellor’s Office and The College of Music. The gamelan orchestra was consecrated in a special ceremony in The College of Music on April 19, 1998.
The World Vocal Ensemble explores different vocal styles and genres from various world cultures including art and folk traditions. Native informants, when available are used occasionally with the goal of bringing forth performances that are close to or near-native culture bearers’ performance practices in both techniques and styles of delivery.
In addition to the world music concerts in the college, the ensemble also collaborates with other groups in the university in performances, including the CU Highlife ensemble and the Brazilian Bateria. The ensemble has also collaborated with outside international groups including the multi-award wining South African acapella group, the Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and South Africa’s pop singer and activist Johnny Clegg.