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We, not us and them

As the unique musical mix of African and bluegrass roots blares, Tunde Odunlade, one of the artists on the collaboration, credits an interaction with a Nashville Bluegrass group.

"We'd allowed our experiences to fuse together," he said, moving subtly to the music playing in the background.

Odunlade, 50, traveled to the United States from his native Nigeria for years to share his Yoruba culture with those interested in gaining the knowledge of its rich heritage. His trip to St. Petersburg includes an exhibition of his work and several elements of the Yoruba culture today at The Studio620. He said he hopes the trip can set in motion a partnership with the city to bring more of the Yoruba culture to the area.

"It also helps me because I want to interact with people who are interested in learning more from my culture, and I learn from their culture," he said. "Iron sharpens iron. I think that's the way it should be."

There are about 20-million Yoruba people worldwide, with a majority of those living in Nigeria. The Yoruba culture is rich with art, music, and religious roots, something Odunlade says is beneficial to everyone.

"There are people in America itching to learn about Nigerian culture, and there are people in Nigeria itching to learn about American culture," he said.

Odunlade's latest trip to the states included visits to Iowa, Texas and South Carolina before arriving in St. Petersburg on Thursday. A trip to the Tampa Bay area 12 years ago sparked an interest in his wanting to share his culture here.

"When I came, I saw few people I met who were interested in international interaction that I feel should be," he said. "So I want to continue to do as much as possible to reach the community with my culture."

Odunlade uses his work as an artist and musician to help promote peace and harmony in the world. He says by mixing the cultures, people are able to see life in a different way. In an art class he conducted, he shared his culture with the artists. After the four hour session, he was amazed with the result.

"When we finished and I was going through the works, I could see the difference," he said. "They had learned a new technique which is going to continue to reflect in their work."

Elinor Gollay, who, along with Rex Brasell, sponsored Odunlade's trip, said a partnership with the artist, who has been a friend of theirs for more than 15 years, would be very beneficial to St. Petersburg.

"We just think it's important for people to get to know each other (culturally)," she said.

Gollay said Odunlade will be busy during his stay networking and seeing what, if any, opportunities there are for creating a partnership to bring the Yoruba culture to St. Petersburg.

"I have no idea what it will bring," she said. "We'd love for an ongoing relationship between Tunde and St. Pete."

WHERE: Studio 620

WHEN: Today from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

WHAT: Drumming, art, food and conversation. Dundu Dole drummers will also perform.

COST: Free, but donations are being accepted.