Monday, November 16, 2009


On November 6, 2009, Camp Kesem, a student run philanthropic organization, held a fundraising a cappella Concert called Rigambamboo.  This concert featured 4 of UVa’s A Cappella groups that all graced us with very different performances.  It displayed various racial and gender dynamics within these groups, but also within the greater University of Virginia community. 

The concert began with the New Dominions.  This group is the oldest co-ed a cappella group on grounds and offered a relatively conservative performance.  Their dress code was the most formal of all groups as they wore evening attire.  They consisted of almost completely Caucasian males and females.  The female soloists all tapped in to their femininity by singing with very low tones, lots of facial expressions, and movement in their hips.  One female also enforced this male/female dichotomy with a slightly androgynous appearance in comparison to the other females in the group.  She was the only girl involved in percussion as she beat-boxed during a male solo.  This guy exemplified a command over the audience that the females in his group did not.  While they simply did their part, interacted with each other, and was relatively detached from the audience, the male soloist was playful and comical.  This female, however, broke this androgynous mold as she sang the final solo of this group.  Her facial expressions and increase body movement affirmed her womanhood but she also exemplified the power her male counterparts expressed with their audience interactions.

The second group that took the stage was ReMix, UVa’s only Hip-Hop and R&B a cappella group.  This group offered the most diverse group of students and the most diverse music.  I believe this is a result of the nature of the genres they represent.  Hip-Hop and R&B being some of the newer genres have evolved as a result of influence from many other forms of music.  This diversity in the music translated to diversity in the group.  Breaking the mold of Asian Americans, this group featured an Asian beat-boxer and contrary to the typical African American rapper, this group featured only Caucasian rappers.  The gender difference was also not as strong in this group as both male and females wore jeans and t-shirts, both males and females were involved in keeping the beat through percussion like sounds, and both males and females sang and rapped.  The dynamics of both song and rap was featured in the piece “What Would You Do” by the American R&B/Hip-Hop group City High.  This song got the audience involved as it rallied them around a social problem, which is a theme of the entire genre of Hip-Hop.  All members of this group sang and rapped this song together.  It didn’t matter whether they were black, white, Asian, or spanish, the audience came together as if everyone could relate to an issue that warranted social change.  The lyrics of the chorus spoke to a mother doing whatever is necessary to feed her child.

 What would you do, if your son was at home crying all alone on the bedroom floor, cuz he's hungry and the only way to feed him is ta sleep wit a man for a little bit of money, and his daddy's gone somewhere smokin' rock now, in and out of lock down, I aint gotta job now, so for you this is just a good time but for me this is what I call life."

The third group to perform was AVP, Academical Village People.  They charged the stage in a wild, rambunctious manner.  This all male group was confident in their entrance and their entire performance.  They were not timid with the audience in song or speech.  If the song they were performing called for low tones, or slow melodies indicative of feminine qualities, they would off-set it with comical relief, somewhat making a mockery of these female emotions.  This was seen in their piece “Don’t Let Me Go” in which the background singers acted as ballerinas and jokingly pulled and tugged on the lead singer, sending the audience into continued laughter.  They wore blue-collard shirts with jeans, adding to their ability to relate with the audience.  They were sure to play with members of the audience by singing to them or urging them to sing or clap along.  They ended their performance just as confident and bold as they began with an Earth Wind & Fire Melody calling on one member to bellow when necessary and the others to keep the tempo and liveliness high in the auditorium.

The last a cappella group to perform was Hoo’s in Treble, an all female group.  This group also wore jeans and t-shirts.  However, they were sure to embrace their feminine power by adding hot pink in their attire and offering songs that speak to various female personalities.  Once again, the beat-boxer of the group was the most androgynous of them all, which reinforces the idea that drums, percussions, etc. is a male-dominated area of music.  They first performed the song “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence, which speaks to the dependency of the female on this male, as he is the only one that can save her from the nothing she’s become.  But this song was then totally contradicted as they performed the female empowering song “Gunpowder and Lead” by Miranda Lambert.  The soloist of this song stood confidently as she placed her hands on her hips and belted lyrics that spoke to the hearts of feminist females.  To close out their performance this group appealed to the popular music culture with the song “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift!  The all female group used their members to both affirm as well as abolish the idea of females in music.

This a cappella concert, featured all male, all female, and co-ed groups.  It was interesting to see they male/female dynamics that transcended in very different ways in each group, as I was simultaneously able to be a part of this fundraiser for Camp Kesem!

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