RICHARD “YUSEF” CROWDER
Woodcarver, Artisan, West African Percussionist
Yusef Crowder was born and raised in Monroe, North Carolina where he attended Winchester Avenue High School and became heavily involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Upon graduation, Yusef moved to New York City, found work and continued his political involvement. One day on a visit to Prospect Park, he heard a sound that would change his life forever… the African drumming of his future teacher, Chief Bey. Yusef followed Chief Bey for two years, was instructed in lessons for a year and eventually sent on his way. After a move to Boston, Yusef’s soulful drumming caught the ear of new converts. He began drumming for a variety of dance classes and eventually founded and directed the African Arts Ensemble (one of the premier African dance ensembles in the country) from 1974-1976.
The realization of a lifelong goal occurred with his journey to West Africa in 1976. He traveled to Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, and Ghana. Due to an unfortunate set of circumstances, Yusef found himself without financial resources. Wanting to remain self-supportive, he sought the advice of a tailor who asked, “What can you do?” In Boston, he had carved a drum and the tailor directed him to wood-carvers on the road to Abidjan. After a two-week apprenticeship, he carved and sold a bowl, exclaiming to himself, “Wood is wonderful!” Nine years were spent in the Ivory Coast where various pieces that were crafted have gone all over the world. Upon his return to America in 1989, he found himself drumming again to survive. He drummed for eleven years with the Uhuru Dance Company and nine years with Barbara Sullivan’s African Dance Connection. Yusef currently crafts one-of-kind, home décor and decorative art pieces in a studio in East Point, GA (bowls, platters, trays, chairs, games, wall hangings, chests, jewelry, yoni stools, lamps, drums, shekeres).
Samples of Yusef’s work: