I AM... Jypsy Jeyfree

Jypsy Jeyfree represents the harmony between a renaissance woman, bohemian spirit, freedom fighter and true walking ART. Invoking the raw emotion of Abstract Expressionism and the perpetual hunger for an Avant-Garde lifestyle. She is a artistic maverick in her own rights from Creative Direction to her passion for spreading Cultural Awareness & Kids Empowerment with her Reclaimed Wearable Art.

When it comes to Jypsy Jeyfree -- the Musical performer, you are in for a whimsical and theatrical ride. She expresses herself through true performance ART-- filled with face masks galore, unimaginable props and raging messages of empowerment.

The spin on her self-proclaimed free-styling moody sounds and colorful style of various singing tones is what the industry needs. An emerging new DIY artist that's breaking boundaries by doing things in her own righteous way.

I AM... JlightSky

My fashion is an intersection of art, culture, and identity. The law of attraction applies to fashion. I realized that when I dawn a garment or accessory from another culture I attract the people from that culture. For example, the other day I wore an Indian bindi and attracted a man from Bangladesh. He informed me that bindis are worn during festive. occasions and that a big bindi signifies a married womyn.

Another example, one day I wore my red Chinese influenced jacket and my coworker Aaron who is from China said that during New Year everyone wears a similar coat and that red in China means good luck. If I didn't wear the bindi or the coat I wouldn't have had these beautiful conversations.

When I purchased these items I didn't buy them with that intention. I bought them from a place of respect, admiration, and love. Why should I limit my expression to only wearing clothing of the "West" when the textures and silhouettes from Africa, Asia, Caribbean and LatinAmerican rhythm better with my spirit. 

To me, my fashion is a bridge to connect with all people of the world. I honor and value cultural fashion because it is grounded in human expression and preservation.

Mixing the cultural fashions of the world grounds me in the universal human experience, where we all are reflections of one another. The world is vast, beautiful, and in a way within all of us, all we must do is tap into it." 

When I perform... Aeilushi

My name is Aeilushi Mistry. Aeilushi - daughter of Saint Aeilush known as Aeilushi. Mistry - are also known as Suthar, carpenters.

I practice Gujarati Folk traditional dances such as Garba, Raas, Divada, supada. This is a community. Garba (ગરબા in Gujarati) is a form of dance which was originated in the state of Gujarat in India. The name is derived from the Sanskrit term Garbha ("womb") and Deep ("a small earthenware lamp"). Many traditional garbas are performed around a centrally lit lamp or a picture or statue of the Goddess Shakti. The circular and spiral figures of Garba have similarities to other spiritual dances, such as those of Sufi culture. Traditionally, it is performed during the nine-day Hindu festival Navarātrī(Gujarati નવરા'ી Nava = 9, rātrī = nights). Either the lamp (the Garba Deep) or an image of the Goddess, Durga (also called Amba) is placed in the middle of concentric rings as an object of veneration. It is also performed wedding and other celebration. Traditionally female will wear chaniya - long embroidered skirt, choli- blouse, and dupatta - long 3 meters fabric with beautiful ornaments and hair is decorated with flowers.

Also, I practice Bharathanatyam, a traditional dance from Tamil Nadu. This dance style is more than 3000 year old. This dance performed in temple as a prayer dance. Bha - means bhav = expression, ra - means raga = melody, tala- means = rhythm , natayam = dance. Now, the time is change and dance is regularly performed on the stage. The dance form is based on 'Adavu' (steps/technique) and 'Hasthamudra' (hand gestures). Stories are performed and communicated using 'bhavabhinaya' (facial expression) and 'hasthamudra' (hand gestures). The performance starts with the prayers to Lord Ganash and worship of Lord Nataraja, Lord of dance. Cosutmes and make-up is also carefully done.The hair is usually either wrapped in a big bun with orange and white flowers wrapped around it. Or more commonly in a very long braid with flowers wrapped around. The makeup, great emphasis placed on the eyes. The eyeliner is very bold. Also, the tips of the fingers and toes are colored red. There are various costumes styles. These costumes are prepared using Kanchipuram silk and Banaras silk sarees. The jadatada jewelry is used in Bharatanatyam. It is decorated with white, red, green colored stones. The jewelry that adorns the head includes a headpiece that sits just on the hairline with a piece coming down the center. There is another headpiece which represents sun and moon, sun ornament is placed on the right side of the head, the other is the moon and is on the left. Then long earrings that are set into place at the earhole and up the length of the ear and then attached at the hair. A nose ring is worn in the middle of the nose, and can be accompanied by the usual stud on the left or right side. There are two necklaces, once short and other is long. A decorated belt is worn at the waist. And finish with tying Dancing bells both ankles.

Garba and Raas, it is a community dance, I don’t recall exactly at what age, I started participating in Garba by once joining the circle and learn dancing by following the movement. And, Bharatnatyam, I started learning Bharatnatyam at the age of nine. I still continue to practice these dances and still continue to learn every day.

I received BA degree from Gandrava University, Gujarat and Advance degree from Kerala Kalamandalam, school of performing arts, Kerala, India. To enhance her performance, she studied with numerous renowned Bharatnatyam dance gurus. In addition, to better understand and learn how different dance styles use unique movements and use of space, she studied other styles of dance such as Kathak, Kuchipudi, modern dance, and West African dance. Currently, I am associated with the Brooklyn Art Council, NY as an arts educator and performer teaching World Culture through Dance. And award 2015 NYFA Fellow Folk/Traditional Arts.

"When performing, it brings me joy and happiness. It helps me to connect people with one another. I thank myself that I am allowing myself to share my culture. It is the most satisfying moment." ~Aeilushi

In Garba, the instruments used are Dhol - a double headed percussion, kanjira - hand cymbals, harmonium, singer sings Garba folk songs base on gods and goddesses such Krishna and Parvati ma. Using household items such as sticks, earthen pots, winnowing basket in daily chores and singing folk song while doing daily chores around the house gave birth to these folk dances. Now they are know as folk dance such as Raas, Bheda dance, Supada dance, deeva dance, tipani dance. Props used in Raas - wooden stick is used, divada dance - oil lamps are held in hand and dance, Bheda dance - earthen water pot is used and dance, supada dance - using winnowing, a basket made from bamboo.In Bharatnayam, it is a storytelling dance. Stories are performed using gestures and expression. The music in Bharatanatyam is based on Carnatic classical music.In Bharatnatyam, the instruments used are Veena, Flute, Mridangam and Violin. There is a singer and the dance guru gives the Thaalam using hand symbols. The singer will sing poetry in praise of god and goddesses such as Lord Natraga, Lord Ganesh, Goddess Durga, Lord Krishna and many more. These songs are set in a rhythm and beats. Dancer and Musician work together and choreograph the dance.

Yes, born and raised in Navasari, Gujarat, India to parents who are also from Asian - India origin. In my Gujarati Hindu family, coming from Mistry - carpentry background, beside carpentry background, many family members were self-taught singers, dancers, and musicians. When I perform my first public performance, my family member compliment me that now we have a new dancer in our family. I respectfully give this credit to my parents. They both are artist themselves. My father who played Dilruba - a string instrument and an architect. My mother is a artist as well. She paints on glass, creates wonderful sand rangoli, great needle work and created beautiful embroidery work. Both had a keen eye is perfection and value art. When my mom was growing up she really wanted to learn dance. She completed her wish by enrolling me to dance class and begin my training in Bharatnatyam at the age of 9. I admire and respect My parents for providing this opportunity. Their support is very valuable. And such support from my husband continued and I am able to continue it further. So, yes, My family, culture, tradition and heritage play an important part of my being. The dance arts, cultural traditions and ceremonies of my Hindu tradition and India have played an important part in my upbringing and are an integral part of my being. Its memories are part of my identity and inspire my art making.

As I continue my journey, I feel, I am reaching deeper and deeper within my culture and roots. It gives me more inspiration to search more and find answers. It is my responsibility to learn my culture and pass it on. When I perform and see audience smiling and dancing, it brings a joy to me seeing the connection. When sharing culture to one another and seeing the similarity between two cultures, it is the most satisfying moment. This reminds me of a verse said in Sanskrit language:

“vasudhaiva kutumbakam” - meaning vasudha - earth; eva-indeed is’ and kutumbakam family “world is one family.”

When I perform... Rasheena

My name is Rasheena. Rasheena is a play on the Muslim name Rasheeda meaning conscious, wise or mature. As a school teacher, I teach dance and provide the costumes for our yearly plays and holiday shows. Personally, I step and stroll with my divine 9 Greek letter organization Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, incorporated. I am also a fashion model. I started modeling at age 3 in Italy. I danced since I was in elementary school. Also stepping since elementary school.

I represent Your Queens. A costume company which evaluates, educates and expresses African lineage through storytelling song and dance. Dancing and performing is something I have participated in since I was young.

"When I perform, The feeling is surreal. Each time I perform, I completely transform and become my character. I no longer represent Rasheena, I am Queen Amina." ~ Rasheena

I feel honored to be able to share this magnificent story of our ancient Queen. I also feel proud of myself for taking that leap to share something that is not always received well.

I am not sure of my maternal side. My paternal side is Bajan, from Barbados. From my culture, I have gained a sense of black pride. I know I must work twice as hard just to be seen as "average". But I do not take it as a hardship rather an extra "ummph". I love our struggle, it makes us unbreakable. Some may crumble at the slightest idea of hardship. While we see hardship as a minor hiccup. I have also gained an appreciation for music. Through my culture, music heals many. We communicate with song and dance. Body language is important. Stories are told without any words.





When I perform... Lauren 'Awapuhi

My middle name is 'Awapuhi and it means ginger flower in Hawaiian. It was my great grandma's favorite flower. I dance with Nā Leo Kūpono Productions, a professional Polynesian entertainment company. We perform dances from the islands of Hawai'i, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand.

My ethnicities are Hawaiian, Caucasian, Portuguese, African, Spanish, Filipino. I've been dancing hula for 22 years and 8 years for everything else. When I perform, I feel proud and blessed to be able to bring our culture to the mainland with us so everyone can enjoy as much as I do. I've gained a greater appreciation for it, being away from home (Hawai'i). I want to be able to keep the tradition going, how our ancestors would want us to do it.

"When I dance, the more I appreciate the time and effort it takes to be able to do it the right way." ~ Lauren 'Awapuhi

Learn more about Nā Leo Kūpono Productions, a professional Polynesian entertainment company. Performing dances from the islands of Hawai'i, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand.

Support the THWACPEP project 

When I perform… Ekiuwa

My name is Ekiuwa, My nickname is Eki, short for Ekiuwa. Eki means Joy or Market Place. Ekiuwa is from Nigeria- It means anything I touched is blessed. The forms of Performing arts I practice is dance, I teach, choreograph and perform jazz, modern, hip-hop, ballet, African and Liturgical dance. I am also a Jewelry designer and creative director of a costume entertainment company. I have been doing my art for over 20 years. I represent Eki's Famous LLC and Your Queens.

"When I perform I feel strong, powerful and know that I am providing healing, love and truth." ~ Ekiuwa / Your Queens

I am Nigerian, Dominican and West Indian. My parents are very cultural. I spent my childhood in Nigeria and had visited the Dominican Republic a few times and the Virgin Islands. I feel that I have gained a sense of love, understanding, determination from my rich heritage and family culture.

When I perform... Nalani

My name means "the heavens" in Hawaiian. I was named after my mother.

I perform with Nā Leo Kūpono Productions, a professional Polynesian entertainment company. Performing dances from the islands of Hawai'i, Tahiti, Tonga, Samoa and New Zealand.  I've been dancing hula for almost 23 years, Tahitian for 18 years and everything else for 8 years.

"I feel proud and blessed to be able to bring our culture to the mainland with us so everyone can enjoy as much as I do." ~Nalani

I feel a sense of pride and joy when I am on stage. I love being able to share our culture with everyone. We come from Kings and Queens of Hawai'i; our specific family has a royal lineage. We have an obligation to pass on their stories through the generations. And I feel as though we are making them proud by doing so.

My ethnicities are Hawaiian, Caucasian, Portuguese, African, Spanish, Filipino.

The more I dance, the more I appreciate the time and effort it takes to be able to do it the right way. Even now, after having danced for so long, I am still learning to perfect the art. The entire body dances, not one part is neglected. I've gained greater leg strength and balance. I've also gained a greater respect for all islands of the Pacific. I am proud to be Polynesian!

When I perform… Tabara Diouf

My name is Elana Alma Payton. My West African / Kenyan Name is Tabara Diouf, it means Prosperity.

I do West African dance. I’ve danced since the age four, and trained in Ballet/ Pointe, Tap, Jazz, Hip Hop through the age 18. I began west African dance in 1993. I currently perform with Kawambe-Omowale African Drum and Dance.

“When I perform, I feel alive and connected to my family.” ~Tabara Diouf

I am African American and Hispanic. My father is Black, and Mother is Hispanic/Spanish. I’ve gained an appreciation for diversity because of my biracial and bicultural heritage. My parents showed me how to live a life of acceptance and love through their marriage. They married at a time when interracial dating was frowned upon and hated. Because of their love, I’m here; because of my ancestors’ strength and endurance, I’m here…to deny them is to deny who I am and my self-worth.

We are proud to introduce Phoenix’s Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance Theatre, a captivating performing arts company that offers a glimpse of West African culture… Read more

Support the THWACPEP project

I AM… Nomad

My birth name is Darrin. My self-name is Nomad. The Nomad is the name given to the young lion of Africa. When he leaves his home and goes off on his on to search for his kingdom. The Nomad is also the name given to hunter / warrior tribes of Africa that live outside of the world. The follow their own laws and customs. So for me, the name Nomad represents the name of a warrior, it also represents the home of my ancestors, it also tells me not to follow the foolishness of the world but to be strong in my own beliefs.

I don’t practice a performing art. I practice my culture.  As my elders grow old and pass away, someone has to pick up the mantle and continue our traditions. As a black musician, I feel it is my responsibility to learn and inherit our culture. Then I too will pass it on. So that it will never die. Culture can only be preserved by the actions of the sons and daughters of that culture. I study and perform traditional malinke drumming, balafon, and the Fulani  / Mandinka flute. I also study jazz, blues, gospel, and hip-hop music (and many of the offsprings of hip hop such as EDM).

If being playing music for about 37 years. If being studying traditional African music for about 25 years. I currently perform with Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance.

“When I perform, and I look around and see people smiling, dancing, and enjoying the music, I feel a great sense of purpose.” ~Nomad

Music and sound bring people together. It is also an internal part of many people’s special moments. I have played at weddings, funerals, graduations, baptisms, retirements, and many other celebrations. And when I play at someplace like a funeral, I recognize the significance of that event to the people involved. So I focus and do my absolute best. Being there is my purpose. It is the tradition of my ancestors, it is also an honor, and of high value to be there for people in their important moment.

My family is from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas. I am and African American with a strong southern lineage. I recognize that which is why I also study jazz and blues. But I also recognize that my culture didn’t originate there. I don’t know which part of Africa. That part does not matter, I will just embrace it all. If I can embrace all that is “American”, then I should be more than capable of embracing all that is African.

You are what you eat.  I have grown up with a steady diet of R&B, Blues, Funk, and Jazz. Even if I was just listening I gained a musical vocabulary. I learned to talk, speak, and feel music in a way that is indigenous to my family and cultural background. I never took hip hop dance class, or blues classes, or R&B classes. But I can perform in all of these categories of music like an after that, because it is already me. That is my soul food. When I started to study traditional African music, It was not strange to me, because it was made of the same ingredients that I have already been consuming all of my life. It was just served in a different dish.

When I perform… Muslimah

I have always had a love for dance but was restricted from dancing until I was an adult. However, I am also an artist in other genres: I sing, write short stories and poetry, I also paint using watercolors but mostly charcoal. I have had only a couple of photography events. I also played the clarinet and most recently the guitar and of course drums (mostly dundun). I did theater years ago and even participated in an Indepent Film. ( I had enough hours to qualify for SAG) but I do not pursue acting.

I have done West African Dance for 22 years. I started briefly in Tucson but when I relocated to Phoenix I found the class after attending Sister Circles in the Valley and was later asked to audition.

I am a Contracted Artist of Kawambe Omowale for 18 years now and have been a Contracted Artist and Board member with the Cultural Arts Commission for approximately 8 years.

My personal relation with dance is emotional and Spiritual. I am grateful that I am even able to dance and the performing is secondary. This is helpful since having an authentic energy and maintaining integrity and respect for the dance and meaning are very important to me.

thwacpep - muslimah


“When I perform… I often feel it is a way of praise and an opportunity to connect others as well as honoring my ancestors.” ~ Muslimah

As an African-American who has yet to travel to the Continent all we have been able to do is research. We found out that I do have a Great, Great Grandfather that was from Nigeria. And when I first meet any new African Sisters and Brothers they tell me that is in my face. Of course there is supposedly Native blood, Blackfoot but that is not confirmed.

I gained an affirmation I guess, some validity for what my passion has been. It is obvious that I am of African descent but certain characteristics or interests that I have always felt a drive for was supported by my family and the research in where we as a People come from. I believe our DNA is the foundation for science and art but also in its respect for nature and community. I am not limited to names others try to give me such as Hippie, Socialist, Humanitarian, etc. I am a Daughter of Africa and that transfers into my artistry since I am representing myself and the ones before me; attempting to be my best self.

I AM… Penda Fall

I am a dancer from West Africa and my dancing experience spans 19 years. I perform with Kawambe Omowale African Drum and Dance Theatre.

"When I perform, I experience a feeling of being liberated. When dancing, I praise God and appreciate Him for giving me life and energy to portray His love to others through dance."

I am of African descent. According to research, my family originated from Madagascar. I have not been there. I have embraced Senegal as my home, because of the love shown to me by the Senegalese people.

In my home, everyone was always dancing and listening to Soul music, mainly by James Brown. I have always loved the level of energy he brought to his performances and that is what I want to bring to my performances.


We are proud to introduce Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance Theatre, a captivating performing arts company that offers a glimpse of West African culture through performances of drumming, dancing, singing, and storytelling. Kawambe-Omowale is a Phoenix based arts company celebrating more than 20 years in the Valley of the Sun!





Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance Theatre

We are proud to introduce Shannon Nia, a captivating performing arts company that offers a glimpse of West African culture through performances of drumming, dancing, singing, and storytelling. Kawambe-Omowale is a Phoenix-based arts company celebrating more than 20 years in the Valley of the Sun! Members perform throughout the Southwest and give the public a first-hand opportunity to experience West African music for themselves through our weekly community class.

Our members have traveled to Senegal, and The Gambia in West Africa, to study the music and dance of the Mande cultures. We have also studied with master artists from other African countries such as Ghana and Nigeria, and with master artists of Afro-Cuba de Mantanza, an international performing arts company from Cuba.

We have performed for events such as the Festival of Nations, the Yoruba Arts Festival, the International Youth Arts Festival, the International Percussive Arts Society's National Convention, and City of Phoenix Dr. Martin Luther King Breakfast. 

We are roster artists listed in the Arizona Commission on the Arts Artists Roster in the Performing Folk Arts category. We are available for school-based residencies, after-school programs, and community outreach workshops.

Our performances are educational, entertaining, and engaging while appealing to audiences of all ages from preschool through senior adults. Performances include audience participation so anyone can join in the fun!

Learn more about Kawambe-Omowale African Drum & Dance Theatre - http://www.kawambeomowale.com/