A Touch of Culture Experiment
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A Touch of Culture Experiment

Band World Jazz

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The best kept secret in music

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Still working on that hot first release.

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Feeling a bit camera shy

Bio

Richard C. Robinson Jr. is an educator, folklorist and musician. His work is an outgrowth of an African and Caribbean folk arts movement in Philadelphia that has been in place for just about 50 years. Richard has been a student of traditional African and Caribbean folk arts since he was a teenager. In 1989 he began to study the physically challenging West African stilt masquerade dance called "Chakaba" from master masquerade folklorist Author "Kofi" Driscoll. Not only did Mr. Driscoll's teachings include dance, but also included hands-on playing of traditional hand and stick percussion from all over Africa and the Diaspora.

In addition to his apprenticeship with Mr. Driscoll, Richard has honed his craft through more than two decades of active support and membership with Ibeji Performing Arts Company (Philadelphia, PA), Jassu Ballet (Philadelphia, PA), Spirit of Sankofa (Philadelphia, PA) and African Heritage (Washington, D.C.). He also obtained experience studying under master African and Caribbean percussionists and dancers Renaldo Gonzales, Robert "Baba" Crowder, Abdoulaye Sylla, Yamoussa Camara, Mbemba Bangoura, Greg "Peachy" Jarman, Greg "Hodari" Banks and Melvin Deal. Each of these components in Richard's studies has contributed to his ability to continue mastering and performing traditional African and Caribbean folk arts.

As a result of his extensive training, Richard has toured nationally and internationally as a stilt dancer and musician with several Philadelphia-based African dance and percussion ensembles while attending high school and college. He has performed at such venues as the Lincoln Center (New York, NY), Kennedy Center (Washington D.C.), Mann Music Center (Philadelphia, PA), Freedom Theater (Philadelphia, PA) and the Academy of Music (Philadelphia, PA). From 1993 to 1997 he was named musical director and guest artist of Penn State University's renowned Nommo Performing Arts Company (State College, PA). He also performed with rock, hip-hop and jazz bands while earning a bachelor's degree in Communications from Penn State.

Richard works extensively with children throughout the tri-state area in schools and community organizations, where he passes on the traditional values of African and Caribbean Creole culture. He has collaborated with the Philly Pops Arts in Education Outreach Program, Perkins Center for the Arts, Strings for Schools and The Philadelphia Free Library. In these programs he presents workshops, performances and classes that emphasize the ideals, which are still relevant in today's world, taught through musicianship in traditional African societies. Through participation, the students learn to value the attributes necessary to be a musician and performing artist: commitment, discipline, respect, leadership and teamwork. Richard also teaches the students how to understand the importance of collaboration and the interdependence of community support that are inherent in African and Caribbean cultures.

Richard currently serves simultaneously as executive director for Dromatala and Dzifa Mask Dance Theatre (Philadelphia, PA) and arts in education musician for Imani-Edutainers (Lancaster, PA). He is also a staff musician for several jazz and world percussion groups such as Dialects Band (Philadelphia, PA), Sonic Liberation Front (Philadelphia, PA), Doc Gibbs (Philadelphia, PA), Osubi Craig and The Prophecy Music Project (Philadelphia, PA) and Kule Mele (Philadelphia, PA). In the spring of 2003, Richard completed a three month artist residency on the Island of Cuba, where he studied the fundamentals of traditional and non-traditional Afro-Cuban percussion. A year later, Richard successfully completed a musical artist exchange in Salvador Bahia, Brazil that allowed him to study hand and stick percussion with world-renowned samba percussionist Ile Aiye. This year appears to be as promising for Richard as he will be producing a full evening-length world musical opus entitled "A Touch Culture Experiment".