Saturday Night Live percussionist to perform, lecture on African music

Logan Raschke, News Editor

Valerie Naranjo, percussionist for Saturday Night Live, will perform and lecture about African music exploration and women’s studies Tuesday and Wednesday.

On Tuesday at 5:30 p.m., Naranjo will join the West Percussion Trio, which includes percussion professor Jamie Ryan, for a recital and lecture in the Dvorak Concert Hall of the Doudna Fine Arts Center.

On Wednesday at noon, Naranjo will present her lecture “Topics in African Music Exploration and Women’s Studies” at the Dvorak Concert Hall. Immediately following her talk, she will conduct a percussion master class for all percussion students at Eastern.

Naranjo, born in Southern Colorado, began as a musician at an early age. She sang in her family, as it was the tradition, according to Mandara Music.

Naranjo then grew an admiration for the gyil when she turned 18. Mandara Music describes the gyil as “one of the grandparents of the mallet keyboard family. It is made from 14 wooden slats that are suspended, on a frame, over calabash gourds.”

The gyil is used for just about everything in life for the Lobi and Dagara people—for happy occasions like weddings and celebrations and for melancholy events like funerals.

Naranjo’s adoration for the gyil blossomed after she heard a recording of the Ghana Dance Ensemble’s Kakraba Lobi, “founding gyil master” for the musical group.

Lobi mentored Naranjo for 17 years. They also partnered together to create the series “West African Music for the Marimba Soloist” for people to understand the African history of the American Marimba, according to Mandara Music.

Naranjo was also an instrumental factor in helping to establish a declaration of a decree that would allow women in the Dagara nation to play the gyil for the first time, according to New York University Steinhart.

Naranjo has also been percussionist for NBC’s Saturday Night Live for 23 years, performing alongside a number of influential singers and songwriters, according to Mandara Music.

Naranjo is New York University Stenhardt’s professor of percussion, song and dance and a member of the university’s Global Institute of Advanced Studies, “which helps professors to an improved international understanding,” according to Mandara Music.

Admission is free for everyone. If anyone has any questions about Naranjo’s visit, they should contact director of bands Alicia Neal at 217-581-3010.

Logan Raschke can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].