Inspired by the voices of its ancestors, Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble preserves, presents and perpetuates the traditional dance and music of West Africa and the African Diaspora.
Based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Kulu Mele has been a highly regarded cultural institution in the Delaware Valley for 50 years (1969 – 2019). Kulu Mele’s performance repertoire features authentic, traditional dance and drumming from West Africa, Cuba and the African Diaspora, as well as contemporary American hip hop. Kulu Mele performs year-round throughout Philadelphia and tours nationally and internationally. Kulu Mele has performed at some of world’s most prestigious performing arts venues, including the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and the Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall at The Los Angeles Music Center. In September, 2015, Kulu Mele performed as part of the official entertainment during the Philadelphia visit of Pope Francis. Kulu Mele’s extensive arts education program, Omo Kulu Mele, serves thousands of Philadelphia school children annually. Founded in 1969 by Baba Robert Crowder, Kulu Mele has been led by artistic director Dorothy Wilkie for more than 30 years.
“An altogether dazzling artistic journey.” Lew Whittington, The Dance Journal
“A fully engaging experience.” Courtney Colon, The Dance Journal
“For the past 50 years, the Philly-based Kulu Mele has honored [the] tradition of cultural dialogue through live performances and education throughout the world.” John Morrison, Broad Street Review
“Kulu Mele’s expertly crafted artistry emphasizes the enduring power of community.”R. Eric Thomas, thINKingDANCE.net
“Kulu Mele is spellbinding.” Merilyn Jackson, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Robert Crowder was a nationally renowned jazz percussionist, whose legendary career included performances with John Coltrane, McCoy Tyner and John Hines. He began to study African folk music and dance in the 1940s, and he made it his mission to revive African cultural traditions in the United States. In 1969, he recorded an album, “Voices of Africa,” with accomplished Ghanaian artist and musician Saka Acquaye. It was re-released in 2002 by Nonesuch Records. A lifelong resident of Philadelphia, Crowder’s artistic honors included a Pew Fellowship in the Arts and awards from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.