By Neil Schulman
Long Branch — It’s a festival within a festival. The 23rd annual Oceans of Rhythm Festival, held during Oceanfest, will feature music, dancing and entertainment ranging from tributes to Prince to traditional music of Senegal.
Basha Alperin, founder of Zeybra, which puts on the event each year with support from the city, says that they have always welcomed, and continue to welcome, spectators and participation.
“It was important to have activities all ages could have fun with, whether it was the little kids or the seniors,” she said. “Some of our followers are in their 80s and they still get up and dance.”
Oceans of Rhythm has undergone various formats over the years, with everything from theater shows to processions to the beachfront. But for the last several years, it’s been held during the Oceanfest celebration, bringing a variety of dancers, musicians and other entertainers to put on international, family-friendly performances.
This year’s show takes place at 4 p.m. on July 4.
Yakar Roots and Rhythm, the internationally renowned Sengalese group, will have a special branch there this year, M’Bolo, dedicated to song and music. The name of the group means “coming together,” which Alperin says is the purpose of the festival.
“It’s a coming together of music, the drums, the people,” she said.
Another group, presenting Brazilian dance, will be M’Zume, based in Long Branch. Also playing will be the Oceans of Rhythm Ensemble.
In the spirit of coming together, people are encouraged to take part, join in the dancing.
“It doesn’t matter how good you are; just have fun with it,” Alperin said.
The event will also feature music played in tribute to Prince. Alperin said that one of the purposes of music and dance is to remember.
“It’s coming together, trying to forget about our differences,” she said.
Faymani Hudson, from Asbury Park, one of The ‘Grand Mothers’ of the Oceans of Rhythm Festival (playing the wife of Tolokun, a majestic sea king, from “The Legend of Troutman’s Creek” a mythological musical drama about ancient Long Branch). Faymani Hudson has attended almost of the festivals!. Also shown is the virtuoso Lammine Thiam, from Senegal, currently musical director of M’BOLO and YAKAR member.
To the right, Yakar dancer Ngor Jallow; to the left, master drummer Folosu Alamide Mimy from Newark. In the background left, Timmy Douglas from Oceans of Rhythm Ensemble, from Bradley Beach; Marco Fuchs from Long Branch, director of Mzume; Tim Scott from Long Branch, longtime participant of the festival; to the far right in green, Lorraine Stone, actress and member of Dunbar Repertoire, based in Monmouth County.