The Melodramatics, 2013-6
Originally authored by Phoebe Son Oh ’21 in “Investing in Radical Black Feminist Counterhistory,” further researched by the Archives staff.
last updated on 02.10.2021
Just as international students have continued to give to the Davidson community through athletics, they have also contributed greatly to the arts. In their first year at Davidson, DASA sponsored multiple dance troupes to come and showcase African dance to the community, and ultimately, they formed multiple dance ensembles teams such as Shades of Brown and African Dance. Different Black and international musicians, singers, and actors have brought their own experiences to the stage, working together with other students from differing backgrounds to diversify the arts and the Davidson community while embracing their cultures.
One such example of this is The Melodemics, a musical group that started in 2013 whose purpose was to “unite cultures from all around the world through playing and performing music of various genres and origins, whether this involves singing in foreign languages, using traditional instruments, or making unusual covers of English songs” (The Melodemics 2013). Unfortunately, the group only lasted three years from 2013-2016 (the last event that they posted about on their Facebook page was from April 2016), but during its time at Davidson, it performed in multiple events such as Battle of the Bands, Dean Rusk Welcome Back Parties and Live Thursdays. This picture is a poster for one of their Live Thursdays donated by Bezawit (Beza) Baheru class of 2016 (middle row, second to the right).
The poster includes text and a fun group photo of the musicians and singers that made up The Melodemics taken after a rehearsal. We can see students posing with multiple guitars, a piano, flute, a djembe (African drum) on one of their heads and a traditional guzheng (Chinese instrument) carried by the student on the left. Above the photo we see information on the time and location of the Live Thursday event as well as a little blurb to persuade people to come: “Last Live Thursday of the semester! Come join us for music from around the world!” We can see multiple Asian and white students, leaving Beza in her wide-eyed, scary pose, as the only Black member of the group. They sang international songs and made arrangements of English songs for different instruments like the guzheng and djembe.
Beza, a native of Ethiopia, was one of the vocalists of the group due to her experience in choir; she was also part of the Davidson gospel choir. She joined The Melodemics for a year to support her friend Natalia, who is from Greece. On a call with Beza, she reiterated the importance of inclusivity in this group and made it clear that it was not solely for international students but that anyone could join the group, continuing on the long-standing tradition of cultural exchange between international students and the Davidson community. Additionally, Beza was involved in multiple dance ensemble groups every year during her time at Davidson, such as Indian dance, Ethiopian, Salsa, West African dance group, to name a few. She shared that her experiences at Davidson would not have been possible without the support of the international community who she said she was very close to. In fact, she was on the board of DIA all four years at Davidson and loved learning about different cultures through the international community, but at the same time bonding over shared experiences of homesickness and estrangement from the overwhelmingly white student body – something that Black international students are not always accustomed to – which is why many international students gravitate towards each other. She said that she did not join an eating house or sorority at Davidson because she felt like she could have the college experience she wanted without it, especially since she was extremely close to the international community. One of her favorite memories at Davidson was international student orientation, as a member as well as a leader, since she loved meeting new people in different years and from various countries, but still had similar backgrounds to her.
Beza’s Davidson experience was significantly defined by her international background and interactions with the international community. All of the photos that she sent for this exhibition had the international community tied to them in some way, whether they were photos of the international festival, an international student get-together, or this poster. As mentioned in the methodology, while the theme of this exhibition was international student experience, I had not specifically asked for photos of the international community but of their Davidson experiences more broadly. However, as shown from the photos that were donated, the international festival, in particular, did define the international student experience even in the eyes of the students themselves, something that this exhibit was aiming to change. This poster was chosen for that reason, but also because there were no records of The Melodemics – a talented group of international individuals who simply aimed to shared their culture’s and the world’s music with the Davidson community – in the archives or as a student group on campus, further showing that international students’ stories at Davidson are only relevant and valuable as part of international festivals, an event that was comprehensively recorded.