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Rhythms & Dances of Haiti

July 29, 2018

1:30 pm - 3:30 pm

Okai Fleurimont - Photo by Tequila Minsky

Okai Fleurimont – Photo by Tequila Minsky

Music Performance and a Hands-on Workshop
Free and Open to All Ages!

Haiti Cultural Exchange and Pelham Art Center present: Rhythms & Dances of Haiti with teaching artist Okai Fleurimont. Discover the traditional drum rhythms of Haiti during this interactive performance. After the music performance there will be a great workshop on making your personal flag or bandana lead by Rebecca Mills.

Haiti Cultural Exchange is a nonprofit organization established to develop, present and promote the cultural expressions of the Haitian people. Seeking to raise awareness of social issues and foster cultural understanding and appreciation through programs in the arts, education and public affairs. See more at

Okai Fleurimont is a self-taught percussionist who discovered drumming at the age of five with two kitchen knives and a bucket. He was born in Brooklyn, from Haitian immigrant parents, and exposed to a variety of rhythms. What influenced him the most was hip-hop, pop music and beat boxing while also singing in the church choir and being the official Conga player for the Carnarsie High School band. Later, Okai developed an intimate connection with the djembe because of its variety of tones and then introduced this instrument to the hip-hop community. He is known as a percussionist, vocalist and rapper in several bands based in Brooklyn, all representing the music of the African Diaspora. As a lead vocalist and percussionist of Brown Rice Family, StringsNSkins and Underground Horns, Okai often travels all over the country and internationally. Okai built upon his innate musicality to develop a career as a professional musician and educator.

The history of the Haitian drum goes back as far as the history of humans in Africa and the creativity that allowed people to make musical instruments. It is uncertain how old drum making is because its components decay rapidly. The earliest record of drum making in Africa goes back 5000 years. On the west coast of Africa, each ethnic group developed a unique rhythm to serve as a national anthem and there were additional rhythms for religious service, marriage, coming of age, government inaugurations etc. These practices are conserved in Haiti where drummers play various beats to identify different African Nations.

Rebecca Mills is an artist, educator and art historian who teaches regularly at the Pelham Art Center. Her creative mind and bubbly energy will guide everyone towards making the best work they can make. We will be using colors and markers to create our own personal flags or bandannas as cultures have applied symbolism to create theirs.