Monday, December 22, 2008


I just read this off a conga E Group ( Jorge is out in the NJ area, plays with some of the cats out there plus he was a Castle Hill regular as well (among other places).

Djoniba Dance & Drum Centre in NYC is closing next week
by jorge on Sat Dec 20, 2008 2:30 pm

One of the great cultural institutions in NYC, Djoniba Dance and Drum Center, is being forced to close next week, primarily due to the economic crisis. DDDC is the one of the largest multi-ethnic drum and dance cultural center in the world. There are classes in a variety of West African and East African dance styles, djembe drumming, and a huge variety of dance styles reflecting many different parts of the African diaspora, including Afro-Caribbean, Capoeira, Samba, Afro-Cuban (Yoruba/orisha, Congo/palo, Arara, rumba), Afrocuban popular (Son, Timba, Rueda de Casino), Haitian, Hip Hop, Mambo/Salsa, Reggae, Katherine Dunham technique, and others. DDDC has provided free classes to thousands of children in NYC. Yesenia Selier Fernandez, who recently arrived from Cuba, just started several months ago teaching the AfroCuban classes, continuing the tradition of some of the great AfroCuban dance teachers in NYC, including Xiomara Rodriguez, Rita Macias, Danys Perez "La Mora", and Felix Insua "Pupy". We had just started playing bata for every AfroCuban class, with Skip Burney, Barry Duke, Diosvany, Guayacan, Barry Cox, Maximo Valdez, Susan Rapalee, and others playing and singing.The main reason for the closing is a recent decrease in students, largely because of the economic crisis. Many people have lost their jobs, others have less job security, less disposable income, and less free time. In addition, there was a rent increase that the Centre is unable to cover from current revenues. As one of the drummers who has been playing on and off for the AfroCuban classes over the past 10 years, I have seen this decline in students from packed studios with 20-40 students for every class 5 and 10 years ago to 15-20 students in the largest classes and 2-10 students in the smallest classes recently.With this closing, about 55 dance teachers and drummers will lose their jobs, and thousands of adult students and hundreds of children will lose their access to studying with some of the greatest African based drummers and dance teachers in the world. Drummers and dancers in NYC (and visiting from around the world) will lose one of the most diverse and important African diaspora cultural institutions in the world, and the rich opportunities for cross fertilization among all these different forms of drumming, dance, and song.

Here is the website, which also has yesterday's press release on it:

We will try to find a smaller, less expensive space and rebuild the Centre, but it will take years of hard work and sacrifice. Donations of skills including fundraising, construction, database/outreach/marketing, as well as direct financial contributions are being sought. AfroCuban drumming, dance, languages, and religions survived "tiempo de España" for many years, and most recently survived the economic and human devastation of the "special period" in Cuba in the 90s, so I am sure the culture will survive the oncoming recession / depression. In fact, many aspects of these African diaspora based cultures have evolved as powerful tools to help people survive hard times. Even so, we all need to be aware that we can't just take cultural institutions like Djoniba for granted. They require ongoing hard work, sacrifice, and nurturing by those of us who are the bearers of these cultural traditions for the next generation.Ache, Alafia, Paz, Shalom, Salaam Aleikum, Peace

No comments: