In Memorium

It is with profound sadness that we announce the passing of Abdoulaye ‘Jimmy’ Sylla. On July 23, 2015, Abdoulaye died while doing what he loved to do… teaching Guinean dance to a room full of inspired dancers, accompanied by talented drummers.

Abdoulaye Sylla was a gifted teacher and performer who derived great joy from representing and sharing his culture with others. From touring the world as a member of Les Ballets Africains, to participating in and leading other folkloric groups, Abdoulaye delivered more than a great show or class; he taught people how to be compassionate and happy. His students remember him as someone who taught them how to live. His devoted following will dearly miss all that he brought to their lives.

Although the vehicle was dance and music, the lesson he shared over and over again, was coming together in community. From this bold stand, class after class, show after show, at every gathering, he passionately proselytized,

“Peace! Love! Respect! And Harmony! For EVERYbody! Unity, Together, ONE!”

Over and over again he made these things real for so many of us.

Abdoulaye lived his whole life in service of making people happy. He could often be found cooking a meal, power-washing a house, or cleaning the yard for a student offering him hospitality while he was on tour. He was the first to offer to help someone with a task whether it was moving, remodeling, or performing at a benefit. He had a way of making everyone he met- young or old, rich or poor, from all walks of life, feel comfortable and that they mattered. People couldn’t help responding to his warmth and his genuineness.

Abdoulaye was playful and funny. He loved creating fun for others, and was the life of any party. You would often hear his arrival before you saw him, as he boomed out greetings to all he encountered along his way. He would get everyone present to participate, coaxing even the most reticent individuals onto the dance floor.

He was deeply devoted to his extended family in Guinea and in the US. As a father, grandfather, brother, son, nephew, cousin, uncle, husband, teacher, friend, performer, and leader, he lived always putting others first, from a deep commitment to selflessly spreading joy and connection. He had a boundless heart and a tremendous capacity to give. He was deeply serious about human relationships and taking care of those he loved.
Abdoulaye is survived by his wife, Laurie; his children, Bountouraby, Morcire, and Fatoumata (Fatim); his grandchildren M’baye, Abdoulaye Frederick (Prince), and Lofa Laurie; his mother, Aissata; his brothers and sisters, Aboubacar, Fatoumata, Momodouba, Youssouf, and Bountouraby; and a slew of extended family members and intimate friends.

He leaves behind a legacy of love.


One World Arts Exchange is committed to building intercultural understanding through the medium of performing arts. Our primary focus is sharing the vibrant music and dance of West African cultures, with an emphasis on the rich heritage of the Republic of Guinea.

One World Arts Exchange was established in Connecticut in 1994 with Abdoulaye Sylla as our Artistic Director. We were known for the exciting workshops, performances, and classes we sponsored throughout New England. We developed enduring partnerships with schools, cultural institutions, arts commissions, youth programs, churches, museums, and others. In 2009 we relocated to the Seattle area in the Pacific Northwest and we are happy to be establishing new partnerships here. One World Arts Exchange offers programs in the US and abroad, including Cultural Exchange Tours to Guinea.

Our Artistic Director and lead artist, Abdoulaye Sylla, has been certified as a master teaching artist by the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and is now on the Washington State Art Commission’s Teaching Artist roster. He is a former member of Les Ballets Africains, Guinea’s national dance company. He has toured, taught and performed throughout the US and the world, and is now sharing his artistic gifts with those who live in the Northwest. Although he has moved to Seattle, Abdoulaye is available for programs anywhere in the world. Since arriving in Seattle, Abdoulaye has co-created Message From Guinea, a group of gifted Guinean artists who play traditional music, sharing the rich cultural heritage of Guinea and African Connection, an eclectic group of artists from different parts of Africa and the diaspora. He is certified in Zumba Dance and is available to teach Zumba as well as traditional African dance and drum.

For booking or other inquiries, contact us at: sylla@danceanddrum.com, 1-203-605-9226.

Current Seattle Community Class Schedule:

Abdoulaye’s classes are on break for the summer.  He is on tour in California from July 5th-August 4th.  Stay tuned for details about fall classes.