Sheila Alexander sat down with INDULGE to talk about Delou Africa, the African dance group in South Florida that showcases and informs the public on African culture by combining elements of dance, drum and music.
How did you start drumming for Delou?
I was studying West African drumming here in Fl. for around three years with African and Trinidadian instructors and playing for various African dance classes in the area. In 2000, I was asked by the director Njeri Plato to join Delou Africa Dance Ensemble. I was honored and accepted and continue to be a dedicated member of 19 years and counting.
How did you discover your passion for drumming?
Since childhood, I’ve had a passion for drums and percussion, listening to jazz records with my father and our Brazilian neighbors playing congas on the porch and bembes in the backyard. I was drawn to the sound of the DunDun in a drum class while studying the djembe and decided then and there that the DunDun would be my instrument.
Who have you performed with?
I have had the opportunity to perform with several groups (MundoVibe, Children of Kuumba and Venus Rising,) over the years and have had the honor of opening for Lucky Dube in 2003, played for Bob Marley’s mother’s birthday as well as for her transition in 2008.I have played with Delou for Rita Marley’s birthday tribute.
What advice would you give to those who want to pursue a career in music or dance?
From the first sign that a child shows interest in music, he/she should be encouraged to handle instruments, improvise, and begin lessons. I began with tap and ballet lessons at five years old through high school but didn’t have my first African dance class until college. I became hooked on the rhythm and wanted to play more than dance but was told women should not play the drums. Well, that proved to be a fallacy.
What is your role within Delou?
My role with Delou is to be part of the strong foundation of the musical component and educate the youth and families through music, history, and the cultural arts.
How do you overcome nervousness/stage fright?
I tell students to replace nervousness with excitement. Excitement is a happy anticipation of what is to come. Be prepared and confident. Nervousness promotes fear and doubt. Again, be prepared and show confidence even if you make an error.
What are your plans for the future? (ie, new collaborations, projects or performances)
In the future, I would love to play percussion, including my DunDuns, with an Avant-Garde jazz group that does improvisational pieces. I see myself sharing what I’ve learned over the years with the youth and the community at large.
Catch Delou Africa at Dance Africa Miami/African Diaspora Dance & Drum Festival of Florida taking place August 2-4, 2019 at Little Haiti Cultural Complex. 212 NE 59th Terrace, Miami, FL 33137.