Saturday night at the Mercury Cafe, second- and third-graders from SOAR Charter School in Green Valley Ranch will bring their drumming skills to the big stage for the first time. Performing under the moniker Night Oblivion, the elementary-school band of percussionists will be part of a fundraiser to send the Koffi Togo band to Africa. "For them, it's going to be a really amazing experience -- its a real venue and a real crowd," says SOAR teacher and bandleader Yuzo Nieto.
"The students get music every single day for one semester, and then they switch to art for the next," says Nieto, explaining that at SOAR, music is just as crucial to the curriculum as science, math and social skills. West African drumming and dance are the focus, as students are taught to play the djembe, dun dun and shaker, and also receive vocal training. While all students at SOAR work through the music-focused curriculum, Night Oblivion comprises some of the more advanced percussionists, who practice together outside of daily classes.
Night Oblivion will share the stage with their teacher's band, Pink Hawks, Nieto's Afro-beat jazz ensemble, on behalf of another musical group. Dancer and Cleo Parker Robinson instructor Koffi Toudji plans to take his band, Koffi Togo, to his native Togo in West Africa this July; the Koffi Togo band will be the third act to perform Saturday night, presenting a musical of sorts, written by Toudji.
"Koffi has been my mentor as a drummer, and was part of Pink Hawks at one point," says Nieto. "Basically, he taught me how to play drums and, in turn, I've gone on to teach what I learned from him at SOAR."
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Doors open at 7 p.m. for the Koffi Togo Fundraiser, an all-ages event at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California Street. A donation of $10 is requested, but Nieto stresses that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. For more information, visit the event's Facebook page.