Rhythms of Africa – Music Around the World with Legendary Drummer Willie Stewart

Vinora Hamilton

MIRAMAR – Hundreds of people packed the Miramar Cultural Center recently for Rhythms of Africa, Music Around the World, with Willie Stewart, formerly of the legendary Jamaican reggae band Third World, and a group of 60 children from Miramar Early Childhood program, Aspira, and Little Kids of Miramar.

Stewart, who spent 23 years with Third World, and later pursued music education in England, began weekly lessons with the children in December.

“Most of the kids had never picked up a musical instrument before I met them,” said Stewart. “They were eager to learn and quickly absorbed everything in just 10 one-hour sessions over an eight week period.”

After a brief history lesson on the many uses of the drum, the show, designed to highlight the journey of music from Africa across the continents, got off to a rousing start. Seemingly hesitant at first, the children, some of whom were dwarfed by the larger drums, quickly got into the swing of things, performing a repertoire of music from the Ivory Coast to Morocco.

The synergy between Stewart and the children was highly evident throughout the hour-long segment as they moved effortlessly from one piece to the next.

Also joining Stewart, to round out the musical journey through Brazil, Haiti, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the U.S., were seven-year-old master percussionist Miguel Russell, local violinist Nicole Yarling, Jamaican singers Sabrina Williams and Carl McDonald, singer Melissa Stokes, his daughter Leea Stewart, and backed by musicians Jesse Jones, Jr. and his brother famous jazz trumpeter Melton Mustafa, Steve Lashley, of KC & the Sunshine Band, guitarist Robert Johnston, Jaime Hinckson, and Trinidadian steel pan player George Goddard. Dancer Nicholas Pairman of the National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC) of Jamaica and Florida State University dancers paid special tribute to James Brown and Michael Jackson.

Rhythms of Africa - Music Around the World with Legendary Drummer Willie Stewart
Stewart and seven-year-old master percussionist Miguel Russell thrilling the audience with sweet music.

Stewart’s passion for the drum and performing was evident by his broad smile and hypnotic energy throughout the show.

“I know that there is a big demand for cultural, energizing and inspiring music, and families and communities need more events, with little or no admission, to feed their souls. ‘Times are hard and all age groups need stress reduction,” Stewart commented. “The children performed with excellence, the musicians were all musicians of the heart who gave their all in the performance, and the audience was receptive and totally interactive.”

The Miramar Cultural Center should consider an encore performance for the almost 500 people who were turned away from the free event.

Meanwhile, Stewart’s musical journey continues with his Solutions in Music, Corp offering music education, and team building workshops for children and adults. Check him out at williestewart.net

Scenes From Rhythms Of Africa

All Photos Courtesy of Don Parchment

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