Lannaya Drum & Dance Ensemble Brings West African Arts to Austin

Lannaya brings the arts and culture of West Africa to Austin
through entertaining and educational drumming and dancing
performances and workshops. Photo from
You don’t have to travel to West Africa to immerse yourself into its unique arts and rich culture. Thanks to organizations like Lannaya, you can experience the rhythms and dances of West Africa right here in the U.S. - more particularly, right here in Austin.

Founded by African Master Drummer Alseny Sylla and New York-based choreographer Suzannah Kincannon, Lannaya is a non-profit arts organization that preserves African Diaspora Arts and educates the local community on West African arts and culture through multicultural performances, workshops, and social interactions.

Performance company members, including both musicians and dancers, work with guest artistic collaborators to create pieces that will entertain audiences while best displaying West African arts and their cultural significance. Company members have performed in Austin and throughout Texas. They’ve even performed at the local Austin City Limits music festival.

In addition to stage performances, Lannaya provides team-building activities and entertainment for conferences, hosts parties and other events, and provides workshops of the general public. Lannaya also offers performances (both entertaining and educational) and workshops for schools, including Kindergarten through 12th grade students and university students. For upcoming performances or programming information, visit

Drummer Jason Barnes Plays First Gig with Robotic Arm

In 2012, drummer Jason Barnes lost his right hand and forearm in a work accident. The accident seemingly left Barnes unable to play and understandably depressed, but his passion for drumming and music was greater than his loss. In the most inspiring of ways, Barnes found a way to play again using a robotic arm. During the Georgia Tech Center for Music Technology Robotic Musicianship Concert on March 22, Barnes debuted his new robotic arm and gave the first-ever musical performance using the GATech robotic drumming prosthesis.

As he told audience members at the concert, it only took about three weeks after the surgery in which his arm was amputated for Barnes to get so bored that he started playing again. “I dragged my drum set out of the garage and proceeded to tape a stick to my arm to see if it was still possible to play the drums,” he said. While playing was painful at first, Barnes pushed on and realized that he could and would play again.

Barnes soon enrolled at the Atlanta Institute of Music and Media, where he met Gil Weinberg, the music professor and musical robot inventor who helped Barnes build the drumming prosthesis. The unique prosthesis allows Barnes to control his grip on a drumstick using his bicep and features a second self-playing drumstick. Watch Barnes rock his first gig using his robotic arm in the video above!

Celebrate Earth Day Every Day with Drums

When it comes to common ground, people often look to the earth to celebrate all of the wondrous sights and sensations we share. There can be little doubt that despite the distance across the planet, each of us reaps the benefits of our planet and its variety of plants, animals, landscape and people. We all breathe the air, drink the water and feel the changing of seasons. As drummers, we are also able to express this unity through our rhythms, especially those that echo the pulse of the earth and our own heartbeats as we are unified in patterns of individuality and community.

Studies have shown there is a rhythmic pulse to the planet, and our daily lives are also constructed around our own patterns. Creating rhythms on hand drums, like a djembe drum or a set of bongos, is a meaningful way to reflect on these patterns of life, and to express gratitude to the earth for connecting us on such a deep level to each other, as well as to the natural world. On Earth Day, especially, it seems essential to take a moment to grab our drums and become part of the universal beat across the world we share. When else can we celebrate the rhythm of life, the drums of our ancestors and the community of music that knows only the language of creativity, expression and fun?

In truth, every day is the perfect day to celebrate the joy of rhythm and drums. The expressive beat of a djembe is welcome in spring, just as it is in winter. Tapping out a beat on a desk can be just as rewarding as a bongo beat on a beach. The connection that rhythm creates between hits on a drum is the same connection that drumming creates between two (or more!) drummers – no matter when, where or how. The reasons we drum may vary, depending on who we ask, but, the motivation and rewards are almost always similar within us all, and the result continues to connect us all across the miles.

Earth Day comes once a year in the U.S., but that should never stop a drummer from connecting to our universal rhythms. Whether your drum of choice is a djembe drum, a pair of congas or a full-tilt drum set, let your own rhythm intertwine with the rest of the world – the planet, the people and the experience of drumming. Celebrate Earth Day every day with drums, and see what a positive impact you can make on the planet!

Babies Love the Sound of Music and the Beat of a Drum!

Pregnancy and the first few weeks of a baby’s life are precious times for the mother and infant that is just beginning to be influenced by the world. For many expectant mothers and fathers, the ability to communicate with an unborn baby is one of the most thrilling and speculative parts of the pregnancy, and the addition of music, reading or even speaking to the “bump” becomes a fun way to pass those months.

X8 Community Drummer Spotlight: John T.

I play a 14" rope-tuned djembe and have been playing in drum circles for approximately 6 years. I was introduced to circles through my years of travel with the Grateful Dead. I always enjoyed listening to the drumming circles and often danced, but never participated in the actual drumming although I feel that I still reaped the benefits of the community and the music.

I purchased my drum about a year after getting a youth drum for my son (from who was participating in an after school program to introduce drumming to children. I played his drum for a while and found that I reached another level of peacefulness and healing that I did not experience through just listening and dancing. The "healing" aspects of drumming are similar to what I have experienced with meditation, except with a rhythmic back beat that does not quit.

As recently reported in a USA Today article, The Rhythm of Life, "…it has been proven that participating in drum circles increases the number of beneficial macrophage cells in the body. These cells are those responsible for seeking out and destroying specific disease organisms." There is also the basic aspect of the excellent physical workout of playing as well as an avenue for stress release. Drumming has certainly added to my life in multiple aspects; time spent with my son drumming, stress release, healing cells to fight disease and the joy of hearing the thunder of drums on a regular basis. Where words fail music speaks!

Thank you for sharing your story, John! Drummers, tell us why YOU love drumming and drum circles! We'd love to share your story, too!