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Storyteller weaves magic for crowd

July 25, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

Jamal Koram's roots as a storyteller come from many places. As a child, he would listen to the adults in his family spin yarns at the dinner table. Teachers and friends exposed him further to different cultures and traditions.

A professional storyteller for almost 20 years, Koram used these influences to form his own style, which uses song, music and inflection to tell stories and morality lessons to children and adults worldwide.

He makes about 100 appearances a year at concerts, festivals and by special arrangement, he said.

Koram made a local appearance on Sunday afternoon at Wheaton Park, off North Street in Hagerstown. The event is part of a series of programs highlighting African American culture to be held at the park this summer.

"It gives me the opportunity to educate and entertain," he said.

Speaking inside the park's gazebo, the storyteller addressed a group of about 20 area children and adults.

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Banging on a bongo-like drum for emphasis, Koram tells stories using African American characters and universal themes.

Koram illustrated to children the need for focus, determination, patience and respect for elders.

Keeping the stories to 10 minutes in length, the storyteller kept the audience's interest by frequently stopping to ask questions and make observations. One story included a verse which Koram and the audience sang. A few lucky children were made his "band" and were given musical instruments to accompany him.

He told his stories in a booming voice and used hand gestures get his point across.

Speaking to the adults in attendance, Koram said parents need to challenge children and support them in their endeavors.

"Adults must tell children who they are, what they must do and how they must do it. And it's the kids responsibility to listen," he said.

Koram's stories come from traditional tales and his imagination, he said.

"I try not to label my stories as folklore, myths or fables," said Koram. He said he uses his personal style and experiences to make each story appealing to the audience.

Clapping and singing along with Koram, Annette Conyers of Hagerstown said she found his storytelling technique engaging.

"It was great - I've always had an interest in storytelling," she said. "It's interactive and there's always a moral lesson."

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