Extracting the Gold Inherent Within
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How it all started with a Drum

“Can I play the drum?”

When Alchemy, Inc. was started, only our primary facilitator played the drum while telling a myth. One day, one of the students inquired, “Can I play the drum?” Then another asked, and another, and another. So we purchased a few drums at a minimal cost since it was more than apparent that the students enjoyed drumming. It also became obvious that drumming was an ideal means of having them work in cooperation with one another. We purchased a few more drums, a little more expensive than the original set. After some time, or maybe a lot of time, it became even more glaringly inescapable that our youth thoroughly enjoyed drumming. We utilized our recourses and purchased djembe drums from Africa and New York, NY. We then searched for a teacher and we found one in Olugbala Manns.

Olugbala Manns is a second generation percussionist who grew up in New York City. He started learning drumming from his father Baba David Coleman at a very young age. Olu also learned how to make drums from his father who is one of the pioneer African American drummers and drum makers. Being that New York is one of the cultural melting pots of the world, Olu was exposed to many different styles of music. As a young man Olu began to learn, teach, and perform African rhythms. He studied drumming throughout his adolescence and decided to pursue a degree in cultural studies.

Olu graduated from Kent State University in 2000 with Bachelor’s in Pan-African Studies. Before graduating, Olu began teaching drum classes in Ohio as early as 1998. As an Arts Educator, Olu has worked with the Cleveland Municipal School District, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Akron Public Library, and numerous higher education institutions such as Kent State University, Hiram College, Cleveland State University, and Tri C. Olu has also used his skills to help other educators incorporate drumming in their curriculum. Olu conducts a number of In- Service for teachers showing them how to use drums in the classroom, aiding in their lessons.

Olu has studied with several masters of percussion, including: Baba David Coleman and Kehinde O’Uhuru of New York City; Dr. Craig Woodson ethnomusicologist; Cleveland OH; and Mbemba Bangoura from Guinea, West Africa. These mentors, along with others, have contributed to Olu’s development in communicating the art of percussion.

Throughout the years Olu has traveled to many countries, studying and performing. He has had the pleasure to visit Bahia Brazil, Guinea West Africa, Europe, Canada and most of the United States. With his travel and study he has used it to spread his craft to people who would normally lack that exposure.

Olu is Cofounder and Musical Director of Heartbeat Afrika, a performing arts ensemble that fuses African rhythms and modern live band. In addition to being an performing arts company, Heartbeat Afrika is also an arts education provider.

Olu is an Adjunct Professor at Hiram College where he teaches the African Ensemble course. He is the Musical Director and Arts Educator for Dance Afrika Dance, and is contracted with several community organizations, learning institutions and Performing Art Companies. With these endeavors, Olu has the opportunity to work with several thousand students a year.

Olu Manns has dedicated his life to teaching African percussion to the world.

Drumming and Myth Work Hand in Hand

Read Excerpts from - The Healing Power of the Drum by Robert Lawrence Friedman