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Posted on Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 6 a.m.

Upcoming events celebrate traditions of body music

By Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

I received an e-mail from the University of Michigan Arts on Earth program about Keith Terry and the Body Music Residency as part of the Arts and Bodies programming this fall. Executive Director Theresa Reid writes: “I thought you might be interested, because body music is a universal form - practiced in every culture from the dawn of humanity - which has distinct cultural variations… I’d love for more families in Ann Arbor to know about body music as well, because it’s so joyful and accessible, and it links us all.”

The Arts on Earth Web site explains more:

“Body music has emerged all over the world, from Inuit vocal games to Balinese kecak (or monkey) chant and dance, from Flamenco Palmas to Sumatran Saman and Ethiopian armpit music. ‘Gumboot’ was developed in the gold mines of South Africa by enslaved workers who were forbidden to speak. ‘Hambone’ was developed by African slaves in America when their owners confiscated their drums.”

Ooh, resistance, I like that.

“Despite the grim origins of some strains of body music, today its practice is almost entirely joyful, demonstrating profound connections among humans creating with only their bodies in vastly different cultural, historical, and political contexts.”

OK, now you got me. Resistance AND reappropriation.

Artist-in-residence Keith Terry and other teaching artists will be spending two days in the Detroit Public Schools teaching students and teachers about body music techniques and origins. In Ann Arbor, there will be a family-friendly Body-Music Mini-Festival on Sunday, Nov. 1, 1-5 p.m, at the Michigan Union Pendleton Room; and a Family Concert of Keith Terry and the SLAMMIN All-Body Band (co-sponsored by University Musical Society) on Friday, Nov. 6, at 7 p.m. at Rackham Auditorium ($10 adults, $5 kids).

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang is a second-generation Chinese American from California who now divides her time between Ann Arbor and the Big Island of Hawaii. She is editor of Asian American Village, a Contributor for, and a Contributor for New America Media. She is a popular speaker on Asian Pacific American and multicultural issues. Check out her website at, her blog at, and she can be reached at


Laura Bien

Tue, Oct 27, 2009 : 11:19 a.m.

I think this is great! Perhaps Ms. Granholm could be persuaded to part with a few dollars to start a cultural exchange program employing laid-off autoworkers. Their original armpit music compositions could be sent to Ethiopia. Kind of a fair-trade armpit music deal. Looking forward to the Body Music Mini-Festival!