Dale Monnin, Alseny Sylla, AJ “Rock” Flores and David Montalvo with the Drum Café South will bring an African drumming experience to the A.C. Jones High School Auditorium Thursday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., the last performance of the Beeville Concert Association’s 2013-2014 season.
The presentation is partially funded by a generous grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts.
At this event, everyone in the audience (up to 400 people) will have the opportunity to play a West African-style “djembe” drum, made of skin stretched tight over a goblet-shaped drum head.
Monnin holds an MBA in international business and a bachelor’s degree in information technology. He has worked on four continents, building and developing cross-cultural teams in marketplaces as diverse as post-apartheid South Africa (where he first took up drumming), the Pacific Rim, as well as Continental Europe and the UK.
An avid traveler, his adventures have taken him through more than 100 cities in more than 45 countries. Now in their 10th year of business, Monnin and his Drum Café South team have used their unique repertoire of rhythm-based programming to enhance organizational effectiveness and energize organizational spirit, personally touching over a million attendees from well more than 1,000 organizations.
Sylla was born in Conakry, Guinea, and began studying African drums at the age of 16, later touring Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana and Ivory Coast with Etoile du Cdum. In 1987, he moved from Guinea to Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where he worked for the next 11 years with the companies C’dyao and Koteba, the first national company comprised of many different African ethnic groups from different countries that combined theater, music, dance and ancestral traditions, touring Central and Western Africa, Europe and the U.S.
He relocated to Austin in 2000, where he currently teaches classes in djembe and djun djun and accompanies West African dance classes at Tapestry Dance Studio, Atomic Dance Factory and the Arabic Bazaar.
He also has accompanied West African dance classes at the University of Texas at Austin, Kenny Doram School for the Performing Arts, and Zilker Elementary School and is a faculty member of the Afrikan Village Drum and Dance Camp in Dripping Springs and the Lisangua Ya Bato drum and dance camp in upstate New York. In addition to playing with Atash and Vengo, Alseny is co-founder and director of the drum and dance ensemble Lannaya, which means “confidence” in his native language, Su Su.
Percussionist Flores was born in Midland in 1976 to Raymond “Kama” Flores, who is a Tejano Hall of Famer. At the age of eight, AJ took the stage for the first time with his dad, playing a snare drum with the Tortilla Factory.
At 18, he landed his first tour with Jennifer Peña y Los Jetz. He has since toured with Bobby Pulido, AB Quintanilla y Los Kumbia Kings, Jimmy Gonzalez y Grupo MAZZ, DJ Kane, Jay Perez, Ruben Ramos and The Mexican Revolution, and Las 3 Divas (Stefani Montiel, Shelly Lares, Elida Reyna) which included a USO tour to Japan in 2006. He has also worked with Jaime Y Los Chamacos, La Mafia, La Deferenzia, Joe Bravo, Augustine Ramirez, Sunny Ozuna and Avizo.
He performs as a senior member of Drum Café South, and his energy, confidence, versatility and showmanship have made him one of the most sought after percussionists in the industry. He has earned two Latin and two American Grammy awards and also has been recognized by the Tejano Academy with a “Percussionist of the Year” award.
Montalvo, a San Antonio native, served 26 years in the San Antonio Fire Department as a lieutenant firefighter-paramedic, owns Montalvo Leather and is a professional actor and model. He studied with Afro-Cuban and West African master drummers on the congas, bongos, timbales, djembe, djun djuns and various other percussion instruments. He is a certified Drum Circle facilitator and a “world percussionist” with several local bands in the San Antonio area.
The Drum Café was started in Johannesburg in 1996 by Warren Lieberman as an actual café where drumming was used in a relaxed environment to break down barriers, inspire and bring people together.
Moved by the experience of communal drumming in Africa and the passion to unite different groups of people in South Africa’s post-apartheid era, Liebermann developed a global team-building and entertainment program along with leading motivational speakers, team builders and Africa’s top drummers.
Retired Beeville Independent School District music consultant Debbie Fulton had experienced a Drum Café session at a school administrators’ conference and highly recommended that the BCA bring the group here.
The Drum Café will treat four BISD school groups to drumming experiences with an anti-bullying theme during the day on Thursday, then offer the community the opportunity to drum just for fun that evening.
Admission is $10 at the door for adults who do not hold BCA season tickets. All students through high school age are admitted free, as is any adult accompanied by two students, and Coastal Bend College students with their student IDs.