Teach the Beat!

Bringing the distinctive D.C. sound of go-go into the classroom.

Teaching for Change is honored to work with D.C.  area schools and the authors of The Beat! Go-Go Music from Washington, D.C. to develop lessons and share teaching ideas for infusing the history and music of go-go in middle and high school social studies, language arts, math, music, and/or D.C. history classes, and to bring renowned go-go performers into D.C. classrooms.

"Go-go has stayed true to time-honored cultural scripts such as live call-and-response, live instrumentation, as well as its locally rooted fashions, slang, dance, distribution and economic systems. Simply put: Go-Go never sold out. There is a grit and texture to the music that gives voice to the communities where it was created." –Natalie Hopkinson


April 4: Ju Ju at Capital City PCS

Sixty high school seniors, students of Capital City Public Charter School U.S. government and D.C. history teacher Ben Williams, participated in a go-go workshop with the legendary go-go drummer, Ju Ju House on April 4. Mr. Williams prepared students for the visit with some of Teaching for Change’s lessons on go-go music. Students came to the workshop with questions for Ju Ju and one of the students provided Ju Ju’s formal introduction to the class. 

Ju Ju played music for the students and asked them to share what they know about go-go. He demonstrated the difference between a go-go beat and a bounce beat, and explained that the congo and the drums in go-go music never play the same beat. Students asked questions about how Ju Ju started playing, his father’s musical career, what continents he has visited, and the history of go-go. One student asked about the origins of the “beat your feet” dance move, and Ju Ju explained that it has its origins in church.

A lot of people don’t realize that there’s a connection between church and go-go, but that’s how people used to move when they felt the spirit on Sunday. A lot of the music, the dances–they got their start in church.

Some students demonstrated the chop and the beat your feet for the class.

The workshop was greatly appreciated, as noted by these two students,

It was very insightful to learn more about Ju Ju and D.C. culture regarding go-go. His visit completely changed my view on the scope of go-go music.—Evelin Guevara

I learned that go-go music has spread worldwide and that people from all over the world appreciate go-go music. I never knew that you could make a career out of go-go music and be so successful doing it. —Max Leathers

Mr. Williams reflected,

It was wonderful to have Ju Ju House at Capital City today. His visit reminded me that bringing experts into the classroom is a powerful experience for students that cannot be replicated otherwise.

This visit was made possible by a grant from the Ben’s Chili Bowl Foundation.

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Image credits: Thomas Sayers Ellis