Funmilayo was born in Brazil and grew up in Guyana. She has traveled extensively to Nigeria and Ghana, where she lived and studied dance for three years. She’s also visited the Congo, the motherland of her ancestors. From 1987 to 1992, she was a member of the only traditional Congolese dance company in New York City, Malaki MA Congo. Funmilayo has been teaching Congolese dance for almost 20 years in New York City and is the director of F.U.S.H.A. Dance Company, founded in 1995. In 1996, she won the Ethnic Dance Award for best African dance instructor. Funmilayo has also studied Ballet, Modern, Tap, Sabar, Guinean, Haitian, Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, Dahomey and Dunham dance. She is employed by the Department of Education and teaches ethnic dance to pre-k through 12th grades. Funmilayo realizes that the ancient dance of the Congolese people, combined with the creative movements and sounds of their descendants, have shaped the culture of many music and dance styles in the Diaspora, including Samba, Salsa, Hip Hop, Reggae, Calypso, Cassav, Jazz, BellyDance, and popular dances like the Electric Slide and even Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk. She was inspired to form F.U.S.H.A. Dance Company to empower and educate people in the healing powers of dance, and to celebrate the richness of dance and culture from Africa and the Diaspora. Funmilayo and F.U.S.H.A. Dance Company have performed at Harvard University and Alvin Ailey, as well as in Jamaica, Sweden and Italy.
Olatunji Ojore is a Brooklyn-born percussionist, visual artist and educator. With a focus on West African and Afro-Caribbean drumming, Olatunji uses rhythm as a learning tool, integrating traditional drumming and early childhood education. In his exciting and interactive lessons, Olatunji takes young learners on a musical journey around the world, introducing them to various instruments and rhythms along the way. As a children’s educator, one of his main goals is to create a safe space that inspires creativity, imagination and children’s natural love of learning. Olatunji’s love for the art has brought him to stages, classrooms and communities around the world. He can presently be heard drumming with Ghanaian drum orchestra, “Akoko Nate” and Ropeadope, a recording artist, and Underground System. Olatunji has taught for Cumbe since 2014 with his Conga Kids class, Uhuru and as our guest Master Drummer for our annual summer camp.
Fitzgerald “Fitz” Sam
Fitz Sam has over 20 years of experience playing and teaching Central African drums and percussion instruments, specializing in Congolese drums. He is currently an instructor at the Brooklyn Music School teaching percussion classes for children and adults. Previously, Fitz taught K-12 students at Cooke Academy schools. He has been both a drummer and accompanist for various African dance classes at Harlem School of the Arts, Alvin Ailey, and Cumbe. Fitz is enthusiastic about sharing his style world-wide in a fun and nurturing atmosphere.
Pena Verde is from Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. He started playing Capoeira when he was 15 years old with Mestre Sabia, the coordinator of The Association of Ginga Mundo Capoeira. Pena has been teaching Capoeira for over 10 years. He has taught Capoeira classes to children and adults in Salvador, Brazil; Barcelona, Spain; Berlin, Germany; and Paris, France. Currently, he teaches Capoeira to children in New York City, at Community Roots Charter School, Katmint Learning Initiative and Brooklyn East Collegiate Middle School. He has also taught at Essex Street Academy High School, Bronx International High School, P.S. 372-the Children’s School, P.S. 11, Brooklyn Friends School, Music Time Kids, and the Tribeca Community School. Pena believes that Capoeira has been responsible for transforming the lives of people all over the world. For this reason, he is thankful for the opportunity to teach Capoeira in New York City.