Willie Stewart aims to expand Rhythms Of Africa show
Willie Stewart, founder and chief organiser of the annual Rhythms Of Africa, is eager to expand the show beyond its South Florida base. This year’s event takes place March 16-17 in the city of Miramar.
Stewart, the former Third World drummer, first staged the event in 2010. It has become a calendar piece in South Florida which has a massive West Indian population, but Stewart is keen to diversify his brand.
“We are ready to start touring Rhythms Of Africa, both nationally and internationally. We have a very unique, creative and family-oriented cultural, educational and special programme that brings mind, body and soul united in the name of music. It speaks directly to the youth, families and communities,” he told Observer Online.
Rhythms Of Africa, as its name indicates, is inspired by percussive sounds from the Motherland. While it has featured a number of high-profile artistes and musicians over the years, Stewart performs with students from the Broward County school system which he has been involved with for almost 20 years.
With March celebrated globally as Women’s History Month, the theme for this year’s show is ‘Strength Of A Woman’. Featured acts will be Etana and Barbadian soca star Alison Hinds.
In addition to performing their songs, they will salute trailblazing West Indian women who made their mark in a music industry that has long been dominated by sexism.
A segment of Rhythms Of Africa 2024 will be dedicated to keyboardist Ibo Cooper, co-founder of Third World who died last October at age 71. Stewart and Cooper were in that band together for 21 years before leaving in 1997.
They played on the group’s biggest hit songs including Now That we Found Love, Try Jah Love, Always Around and Committed.
Last year’s show featured a segment titled ‘Love Will Always be There’, which saluted Third World’s 50th anniversary.