The polyrhythmic sounds of African drums resonated throughout the Germantown Avenue commercial corridor recently. This “call of the drum” formed the sounds of a drumming circle inside the Ausar Auset Society, 6008 Germantown Ave. where master drummer Mohamed “Yiddie” Bangoura led his first session on Saturday, March 31 at 3 p.m. Among the group were first time drummers like 8-year-old Brandon Aldrich of Mount Airy as well as more experienced adult learners.
On hand videotaping the entire program was Faith Fisher. She met Bangoura during a trek through the West Coast of Africa several years ago. She was impressed with his drumming prowess and professional career as a drum master throughout his native Guinea and other African nations like Gambia and Senegal.
“We are now married, and he is making his home in the area,” Fisher said, who has also become stepmother to Bangoura’s young daughter, Mahawa. “My African name is Bintou, but I am also known as Faith. My husband does not speak English fluently, but he can speak five languages fluently. When he teaches the drums he lets the (demonstrations) do the teaching and the students understand.”
Bangoura took the multi-generational classroom, which included his daughter, slowly through basic rhythms. As they acquired the mastery of these he would count off as he weaved the different beats into one. The students quickly followed his lead as they made the transitions for more than two hours even though the class was technically an hour and a half.
Fisher added that her husband began training on the instrument when he was a young boy. His drum master’s name was Balla, and he acquired great agility on the drum by the time he was 11 years old. “That’s why he is now ready to teach the history, culture and call of the drum to African Americans,” Fisher said.
Bangoura will continue his “Special Drum Series” of instruction at Ausar Auset after the Easter holiday. Students present at the March 31 class were asked to practice what they learned for subsequent sessions. Yet new students are always welcome — if they are aware that they must play “catch up,” according to the master drummer.
Classes will continue on Saturdays, April 14, 21 and 28 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $15 per class. For more information, visit www.ausarausetpa.com or call 215-843-0900.
For the Ausar Auset Society, the spring of 2013 is a holy season. This was never more evident when the Philadelphia temple held its 40th anniversary celebration. It was held on the lower level of the Lotus Academy, 340 E. Haines St. , on Sunday, March 17.
The international neo-Egyptian organization’s celebration drew those from as far away as New York City and Washington, D.C. as well as from across Philadelphia.
Guests were greeted by the polyrhythmic drumming of musician Ogunkemi at the front door.
After passing by a carved mahogany Madonna that was taller than six-feet, guests made their way to the cafeteria that was decorated with massive brass Kemetic pharaohs. The standing room only crowd waited patiently, amid the smell the vegan soul menu, for the royal family. It was there that Ausar Auset founder Dr. Ra Un Nefer Amen I, the author of 35 books, signed his new volume, “Not out of Greece.
Among them was Kahleelah Lowenthal, a Philadelphia native, who was first exposed to Kemetic spirituality when she was living in suburban Maryland 15 years ago. When she relocated back to the city and later to South Jersey, she continued to explore the African centered religions. It was just three months ago that she joined Ausar Auset.
“I am clearly here to celebrate,” Lowenthal said, who wore a red and gold African printed outfit. “I feel that this is my new home. I am grateful for all I’ve learned from [Amen] who intuited so much of our ancient religious culture. I love being part of a new community that worships in a way that speaks to my cultural roots and where all are happy.”
Ama Kaita, an African dancer, concurred. She was invited to the Germantown temple by one of its member in 2010.
“It was a joy to really understand our African ways of worship,” Kaita said.
“It’s a joy to share my talents in a place where there is no negative energy. I’ve really found inner peace and balance. I’ve been able to achieve this because the things I am learning about my history and culture in a way that resonates with me. We understand that we are accountable for our actions and to use our energy wisely,” Kaita said.
Ron Griffin, a contractor who has been a customer of Ausar Auset’s Nile Café came to support the anniversary.
“I am a Christian, but I believe that Afrocentric spirituality has a function, so I support all their fundraisers,” he said.
Also on hand was Neptha Amina Afia wearing a dramatic African gailee headwrap with a circular copper ornament designed by her business partner Abdur Rhaman Suade of Symmetry Jewelry. Afia showed off her natural fabric and Kemetic inspired line from Simply Neptha Wholistic Boutique.
Additionally, aromatherapist Shadow Wolf and herbalist Dwan Wright-El, both of Southwest Philadelphia, had their organic homemade soaps and nutritional supplements, respectively.
Rafiq Abdul Malik, of North Philadelphia, said he appreciated a religious organization that shares his passion for herbal and natural remedies.
“It’s time for all of us as African Americans to return to spiritual places that invigorate our meridian energy,” Malik said.
The Ausar Auset Society will celebrate its 40th anniversary in Germantown this weekend. The Philadelphia chapter of the international neo-Egyptian religious and spiritual organization will mark this event by hosting the group’s founder Ra Un Nefer Amen I. The gala will take place at the Lotus Academy, 340 E. Haines St., on March 17 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Amen will also be releasing his new book, “Not out of Greece.” He is author of 35 books on spirituality, health and relationships, including the “Metu Neter Series.” This series chronicles the foundation of the ancient African religious practices which serve as the basis for many contemporary cosmological, including the popularized Kabala, systems.
The Nile Café will be catering the event with a soul vegetarian menu. Musician Steven “Katriel” Wise, several spoken word artistsand African drummers will be providing live entertainment. Local artists and cultural vendors will be displaying their wares.
“Ausar Auset has been dedicated to returning to, and preserving, ancient Kemetic or Egyptian culture,” said Seshemsia Aakhut, of Mount Airy, the marketing coordinator for the gala. “I know, for me, it has helped me to even understand the bible better. I came from a strict Christian family out of Grace Baptist Church under the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Sr. where I had spiritual questions. It was here I got those questions answered.
“Dr. Amen is the only Black author to have written technical instruction manuals on ancient African spirituality, meditation and cosmology. These provide readers and students with the necessary instructions to integrate this ancient knowledge into a spiritually empowering and practical way for modern living,” said Aakhut.
Aakhut, known to many as Linda Bell, is quick to point out that the society’s headquarters is in Brooklyn, New York. It also has several temples in several American cities, like Washington, D.C., Chicago and Atlanta. There are also worship centers in Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, Bermuda, Ghana, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.