A FREE PEOPLE
Hasani Palacio knows the connection between rhythm and commitment. This past season marked two decades of drumming for the community, showing up on Saturday mornings at the West Las Vegas Cultural Arts center to teach and to lead an assemblage of drummers who gather to accompany African dance classes filled with students ranging from toddlers to teens, along with professional dancers who drop in from the Strip. A mental health professional working for over twenty years as a psychiatric nurse, Palacio is principal drummer and co-director for Olabisi African Dance Ensemble, which he founded with wife Kianga Palacio in 1997. Kianga succumbed to breast cancer in 2009. Kianga Isoke Palacio park is named in her honor. Palacio has remarried and lives with his wife and blended family in the valley’s northwest.
This year will actually be its 25th anniversary. Ellis Rice, he was working at the center. He, Marcia Robinson, David and Iris, were the first four staffers at the center. He was familiar with me. He was with the Hittite Empire; he’d done a lot of poetry around town and I used to support him. When the center opened, he wanted African dance and drumming there. I was reluctant in that I hadn’t studied formally with anyone. I didn’t think I had anything worthy to contribute. Kianga was asked to do the African dance. She was far more confident. After a long discussion and reflection, I decided okay. Because what that would then force me to do, was step up my game. Instead of cowering from the challenge, I decided to step up and intensify my studies, so that I could then have something to share with people who showed up. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. The drum speaks to us. It touches our spirits; it touches our hearts. The name of our company, Olabisi, means joy is multiplied. Meaning your spirits are going to be elevated. The drum represents the heartbeat. The heartbeat is the very first sound any human being hears. Without that heartbeat there is no life.