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Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu is a Master Drummer, Composer, Diviner, and Lecturer. He serves as the Artistic Director of “Heritage – The Vision Continues,” a West African-Cuban music and dance ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of the rich African music and dance heritage of West Africa, Cuba and other Caribbean islands.
He is a master of West African, Cuban, and Haitian traditional instruments, as well as singer and teacher of African and African diaspora musical culture. His love of African drum and percussion ensemble music started at a young age in Cayes, Haiti where he was born. He completed his early drumming apprenticeship in the shrines of Haiti as a child protégé.
Chief Yagbe is among the most distinguished group of African diaspora tradition bearers who continue to impart their knowledge through workshops, lectures, festivals and in-school instruction.
His Vision and Inspiration:
- TEACH the fundamentals of West African/Cuban music and culture through sacred stories, rhythms and songs.
- INSPIRE all who embrace the teachings of the culture with life-enhancing principles and practices for health and well-being.
- STRENGTHEN communion and values of self-respect, respect for others, hard work, integrity, sense of community.
Detailed Biography – Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu
Chief Yagbe serves as the Artistic Director of “Heritage – The Vision Continues,” A West African-Cuban music and dance ensemble dedicated to the study and performance of the rich heritage of West Africa, Cuba and other Caribbean islands. His love of African drum and percussion ensemble music started at a young age in Cayes, Haiti where he was born. He completed his early drumming apprenticeship in the shrines of Haiti as a child protégé. Chief Yagbe is among the most distinguished traditional culture bearers in the African Diaspora. He is dedicated to preserving African spirituality and culture through lectures, music, and spiritual counsel (divination).
A dynamic teacher of African culture, Chief Yagbe edifies music, dance, and spirituality. His many travels throughout the African diaspora (30 to West African and 12 to Cuba) have given him wisdom and insight that only comes from working with and studying with revered elders. He has spent a lifetime learning an array of styles and traditions, locally and abroad, that inform his teachings and illuminates his artistic mastery.
Chief Yagbe is a Griot in the purest form. His teachings bear the same vibrancy and richness as those elders who have carried forth culture and tradition for millennium. His approach espouses Africa in that he does not work in a linear fashion. Instead, Chief Yagbe understands the importance of the circular interconnected of life and all its manifestations. When teaching how to play instruments, he brings to those lessons the origins of the instrument, which often includes the creation story behind it. The importance of this approach is for the student to truly understand the instrument, how it came into existence, its significance, and the gift it brings to the world. Having this knowledge is equally, if not more important than how to just play the notes correctly. It aids the student in connecting to the instrument and understanding its purpose at a level that explores the esoteric. These components bring the instrument to life, giving the sounds a profound richness. It is what makes the music felt so deeply by those whose ears and spirits it touches.
Chief Yagbe incorporates a holistic approach to his teachings that makes his lessons an experience. His lectures are hallmarked by his charismatic storytelling. He brings energy and passion to the content he is presenting. Most importantly, he brings a vast well of knowledge that he draws from and pours out to his audiences. He becomes the content he presents; he is Ifa, he is the Drum, he is the Sekere.
Chief Yagbe is the recipient of many important international honors including the highest title bestowed on skilled drummers dedicated to the Yoruba religious traditions of Cuba, known as Santeria. “Oba Ilu”, King of the Drums, receiving the sacred “Anya” Drums of Nicolas “Titi” Angarica in 1990. He was the first non-Cuban to be given a set of sacred drums.
A Californian resident since 1976, Chief Yagbe has performed with African traditional and contemporary dance companies. Among these are Dimensions Dance Theatre, The African Music and Dance Ensemble, Fua Dia Congo, Ceedo Senegalese Dance Company, Ballet Saba, Nuba Dance Theatre, Beatriz Ross Cultural Ensemble and Bantaba. Chief Yagbe has conducted many workshops and performances with internationally renowned companies such as the Senegal National Dance Company,Les Ballets African Guinee, Conjunto National Cuba, Afro Cuba Matanza, Noche Cubana and Escuela de Arte Cuba, Mario Papo Angarica Havana Cuba.
Chief Yagbe Awolowo Onilu is one of the greatest living bearers of W/African and Afro-Cuban knowledge and tradition. A masterful Drummer, Composer, Diviner, Griot, and Lecturer he is internationally respected and revered for his knowledge, charisma and drumming prowess. Working with his extended “HERITAGE The Vision Continues” Family Ayan-Agalu. Yagbe have become known throughout The World as Wisdom Keeper of West African and Afro-Cuban traditions.
Since settling in Oakland California, Yagbe have developed a distinct music and dance culture for ceremonies honoring the gods and for secular enjoyment. In his liner notes, Yagbe provides extensive historical information and descriptions of instruments and ceremonies. He explains, “A rhythmic beat and a vocal chorus are a part of every folktale, and music without dancing is virtually non-existence.”
The Griot is the storyteller of their tribe who passes on the history of their people orally. It is said when a Griot dies, a library has burned to the ground. A Griot is a human library. A Griot is a (historian, adviser, spokesperson, diplomat, peacemaker, praise-singer, interpreter, translator, musician, teacher, composer, and witness). In many African tribes, a Griot is all of these things and more, a tangible link to the past. Someone who could touch you with stories and facts about what kind of person you are.
Orunmila = Ifa-Vodun-Orisha-Ayan-Egungun...
In 1980, in recognition of his mastery, Chief Yagbe was initiated into Ifa, the ancient wisdom tradition on which Yoruba philosophy, Arts, Music, Customs, Science, Medicine, Culture and Religion are based.
Dedicated to the spreading and sharing information and knowledge. Hidden for centuries, Ifa is a nature religion that helps to develop realistic relationships with the natural forces that govern the universe. Ifa is not Religion, History, Philosophy, And Science, but Ifa contains Religion, History, Philosophy, and Science within itself by which wonderful things are performed. Ifa is not anyone thing, but it contains everything within it, in its totality.
Chief Yagbe was also crowned the most consecrated diviner title in the Yoruba tradition, “Agba Awo Ile-Ife” = The elders of the diviners of the earth that spread.
F.E.A.R = False Evidence Appearing Real…. The Oldest & Strongest Emotion Of Mankind Is Fear – The Oldest & Strongest Kind Of Fear Is Fear Of The Unknown. Expose Yourself To Your Deepest Fear. Stand Tall – Wear A Crown – Be Sweet On The Inside. A River Does Not Flow & Look Back…
***Naomi Scott = I am so excited for you rite now! ah I am sending you so much love and joy as you embark upon this journey. I hope you will have many empowering and uplifting experiences as you continue to learn from the Egun and the Elders in Danxome, and that you will be surrounded with blessings that will nurture your vibrant spirit, and opportunities to expand your ever-growing wisdom and knowledge. Aboru Aboye Abosise! Kudos Baba! ok take care, and enjoy your journey!
***Simeon Jérôme = Nou se nèg kitifè nèg tayifè nèg bakosou la de nèg pile pase nèg vantem pafyem nèg ki kòmande 4 ka fou!
***Shmuel Daffner = Much love Baba, I’m so grateful for your friendship and how you have taught me so much. I’m really able to connect and have fun because of the many lessons you have taught us..
*** Eric Hudson = Your wisdom is such a helpful resource for those of us in trying to go deeper into our culture. Again, thank you, I wish you a year of powerful and positive transformations.
***Marsea Marquis = Beautiful website Baba, such a gift to humanity. Thank you! Asè, Axè, Ashè, Achè
**Casa Islam = I love you for being you, one of the strongest and smartest African men I have had to pleasure to visit and will always think of you as a wonderful spiritual neighbor and musician par excellence!!! The beauty of your character shines radiantly in each post! I hope to do for Islam what you have done with IFA…to be able to add beauty, honor dignity and understanding to the faith I love so very much!