Photo: Jonathan Kennedy

Me and Julio down by the schoolyard

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By Tanya Cholakov

In a city as culturally diverse as ours, York University teacher Anne Lederman was surprised she couldn’t find a decent environment in which to take West African drumming lessons. Frustrated, Lederman created Worlds of Music Toronto (WOMT). A non-profit organization, WOMT takes the wealth of musical talent that Metro’s diverse residents have to offer and streamlines that ability into a festival of workshops. Offered to adult students in two sessions during the year, fall and spring, WOMT attracts steady enrolment of between 75 and 100 students per session.

This year there are 13 workshops being offered, featuring classes exploring the musical cultures of Africa, Asia, South America as well as the practices of Native Canadians. From the most popular West African drumming class, which has three levels of difficulty, to the more personal East African guitar, with 10 students, musicians of different backgrounds and musical talents assemble to learn the traditional folk songs of the cultures.

Students who generally have some musical background are enthusiastic about the opportunities offered by WOMT. John, a student in African guitar and South African harmonic singing classes, says he is involved because he is “really interested in the African culture, and because it is a lot easier to learn skills and technique from a skilled teacher then from a tape.”

Most teachers at WOMT are native to the countries whose traditions they are teaching, and feel that this cross-cultural musical experience is really important. Drumming teacher Joseph Ashong believes strongly that music knows no borders. “I teach because I want to give the people of the world what we have in Africa,” he says. “Music is a universal language and it’s good for us to learn from each other from all over the world. I take Chinese drumming, and Japanese… It’s good to teach each other people about your culture.”

While some spring workshops have started, Brazilian Samba and Eastern European Singing are beginning later this month. Students are expected to provide their own instrument and/or amplifier, and each 10-week sessions costs $140.

WOMT has also started a free community choir that meets Thursdays at Forest Hill Collegiate. Intended to share and perform piece representative of the vast cultural repertoire that the different teachers offer, the choir will put on small concerts around Metro, with all proceeds going to local charities.

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