Willie Stewart Taking Rhythms of Africa To Another Level

by Howard Campbell

SOUTH FLORIDA – Following a successful 10th Rhythms Of Africa, Willie Stewart is looking to take his show to Jamaica for the first time.

He believes a sharing of ideas between his South Florida students and their Jamaican counterparts “would bring Rhythms of Africa to another level.”

Both nights (April 1-2) of the 10th anniversary show were sold out at Miramar Cultural Center. In addition to performances from Stewart and Everglades High School, the event saluted Third World’s 50th anniversary with renditions of some of their biggest hits.

Stewart was drummer in that Grammy-nominated band for 22 years, playing on some of their classic songs including Reggae Ambassador and Now That we Found Love. He is eager to share his knowledge of African beats with Jamaican youth.

Willie Stewart Taking Rhythms of Africa To Another Level
Willie Stewart – file photo courtesy Embrace Music Foundation

“The audience will see a show that is unique to itself and they will love and relate to it in many ways,” said Stewart.

Unlike Broward County whose school music program gets solid support through grants, there is a struggle to maintain similar projects in Jamaica. In fact, the promising Jamaica Best School Band competition, which is also in its 10th year, has only six competitors.

Stewart was born in London, England but moved to Jamaica with his parents in the late 1960s. His older brother was Byron Lee, leader of the famous Dragonaires band.

He started his career while a student at Wolmer’s Boys High School in the late 1960s and joined Inner Circle in the early 1970s before joining Third World in 1976.

Stewart has become a respected figure in Broward County by mentoring countless children on the history and rudiments of percussive instruments. He first staged Rhythms Of Africa in 2010.

This year’s event saw a moving performance on cello by Stephen “Cat” Coore, co-founder of Third World. It is one of the moments that makes Rhythms Of Africa worthwhile for Willie Stewart.

Rhythms of Africa 2023 with Mayor Messam City of Miramar and Third World Band
Willie Stewart (L) and with members of Third World Band. Mayor Wayne Messam (center) presenting Third World with a proclamation from The City of Miramar.

“What has made it a calendar event is the consistency of concert excellence. Students, musicians, artists and dancers are all on point, playing from the heart with sincerity,” he said.



South Florida Caribbean News

The SFLCN.com Team provides news and information for the Caribbean-American community in South Florida and beyond.

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