Simon Lewis

Director, Percussionist and drum maker

 

With more than 15 years of teaching experience Simon is highly regarded as a teacher of world percussion. He has lived and studied traditional djembe, dundun, balafon and kora in Guinea West Africa with Master drummers Lamine Soumah, Aliou Sylla and the world famous Les Percussions  De Guinea. He is well known for his insightful and innovative teaching style which is both fun and challenging.With a background in classical and jazz his versatility and broad knowledge of music gives  students a unique entry into the world of African drumming.


Simon has performed in Japan, Europe and has performed at Womadelaide, Woodforde and many other major festivals around Australia. Founder and leader of The World Rhythm Ensemble and Zazu Simon is currently performing with many of Melbourne’s most dynamic percussion based ensembles including Wassawumba, Asiko, and The Marabou Project.

Mitzi McRae

Director, Dance Instructor

 

Mitzi has studied West African dance for 15 years and has travelled to Africa (Ghana, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Senegal and The Gambia) and also to the US to further her knowledge by learning from the masters. She is a natural teacher and over 10 years of teaching African dance, has developed a unique style which provides a relaxed and open environment in which to learn.

Mitzi has been hailed as one of Australia’s best non-African female dancers and captures the energy, vitality, joy and strength of the African dance style. Many of her students have been attending classes for as long as she has been teaching! 

‘I love being in a class where people are so caught up in the dance that they don’t realise they’re grinning.’

‘Since doing the dance classes, I feel much more comfortable with my body. I don’t think twice about wearing bathers or tight fitting clothes anymore’

'..the steps are a sheer joy and Mitzi's class always gives me a great experience of flow and spring which re-energises me for the rest of the week'

 
 
  • Ben Winstanley

    Drummer

    Ben has been a drummer since he was 14 and is studying Music Performance. Since being exposed to the joys of West African drumming Ben plays with Melbourne Djembe at every opportunity. He plays for dance classes, festivals, flash mobs, workshops - you name it! Can't stop this young fella.

  • Matt Rodd

    Performer/teacher

    Matt is a performer and teacher of music with over 20 years experience. He studied guitar at Victorian College of the Arts and has a diploma of teaching from the University of Melbourne. Matt's great passion for African and Latin music is apparent as a percussionist and guitarist as well as his great love of writing, recording and performing all world ethnic music styles. Matt regularly plays in a kora/guitar ensemble with Simon Lewis.

  • Ousmane Sonko

    Performer

    Ousmane comes from a mandinko family of musicians from Senegal, he is a drummer, singer, guitarist and composer. He has been playing since his early ages all west African drums.

  • Loz Dainton

    Drum maker/repairs

    I have played drum kit for over 15 years and it was Simon and Mitzi who introduced me to the exciting music of West Africa. I have had practical experience in the fields of motor mechanics, bike repair, cabinet making/carpentry, welding and teaching. Under the watchful eye of Simon I am now embarking on the craft of drum making…What better way to combine my passions than by creating instruments that I love to play!’

  • Athena Donohue

    Dance Instructor

    My thirst for West African dance lead me to Africa in 2005 and 2006 where I studied traditional djembe dance with legendary Mariama Camara from Les Ballet Africans, Guinea’s national dance company. I returned to West Africa in 2007 to study the infectious and provocative Wolof tradition of Sabar dance.

  • Justin Bourke

    Drum Maker/Repairs

    Since mid 2007, Justin has learned the crafts of drum making and balafon construction and maintenance. Building, skinning and repairing drums including dun duns, djembes, bongos and congas, Justin has gained experience and knowledge on what makes a great drum.

  • Bassidi Kone

    Performer/teacher

    BASSIDI KONÉ (age 26) is a well renowned, versatile djembe and balafon player of exceptional talent. At the age of 20, he formed his award-winning, 10-piece ensemble, ‘Bwazan’, who perform internationally. Bassidi is a supportive, warm and patient teacher with a positive energy and an infectious smile.

  • Lamine Sonko

    Performer/workshop facilitator

    Born in Senegal, West Africa, to a family of ‘Griots’ - which means ‘Culture Keepers’ - Lamine began to play music when he was 7 years old. “We are the Griots and have the obligation to pass dances, songs, music and stories to generations.” Lamine grew up in an artistic family. His father, Bouly Sonko, has been the director for Le Ballet National Du Senegal for 30 years, and Lamine’s mother is a well-known Senegalese dancer.

 
West African | African Drumming | African Drums | Djembe | Drumming Melbourne | African Instruments