Alex Colon-Olaniyan

The Drumming Workshop Project
Artistic Discipline: Music
Category: Brooklyn Arts Fund
Grant Year: 2020
Location: Bedford-Stuyvesant

Recognizing various cultural patterns of the world and respecting them is a positive step in understanding and appreciating uniqueness in a global society. Alex Colon-Olaniyan is a passionate educator, cultural activist, multi-instrumentalist and ardent language conservationist. Through his artistic and pedagogical endeavors he works to safeguard Garifuna music, dance and language. Alex co-founded James Lovell and the AfriiGarifuna Youth Ensemble (JLAYE), a performing arts youth group who showcased and promoted indigenous Garifuna Culture from Central America at various community centers, theaters, and churches in New York City. Alex has conducted Drumming Workshops in Brooklyn and Baltimore City Community College. Finally, Alex performed Garifuna Traditional music at the United Nations, Lincoln Center American Indian Museum and Smithsonian

Alex Colon-Olaniyan will serve as the director and teaching artist for this project that will engage up to fifteen students in a classroom setting during the months of May, June, and July. Students will meet every Saturday at the Believers Mennonite Garifuna Ministries in Brooklyn. At each session, the students will be introduced to Garifuna words and then repeating them. Colon-Olaniyan will pronounce the words and repeat this process until they have mastered the words in Garifuna Language. Students will also learn gospel songs in Garifuna along with drumming lessons. The four main purposes of the drum, the various types of drums, posture and three main genres meaning Punta, Paranda, and Hungu Hugu. Throughout the whole experience of this workshop project, participants will be familiarized with Garifuna Heritage.

The children will benefit in that they will be in an educational environment as opposed to negative influences in their neighborhoods and unnecessary violence in the streets. It will also give parents of the children peace of mind where they will be nurtured about a distinct culture and learn a skill while having fun. This project will also be open to Non-Garinagu children who, by participating in such a positive environment, will get a chance to learn about a culture that is endangered. Furthermore, in addition to the workshops and classes on Garifuna Gospel Songs, Drumming and History, the project will then come to a final conclusion where the children as participants will demonstrate what they have learned as part of a performance to their parents, family and friends and the community.