Laila Abdullah (dancer, teaching artist) is a mother, teacher, and choreographer with extensive training in the African Diaspora dance styles, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop and Ballet. The Los Angeles Times has written: “... riveting Laila Abdullah, her effervescent solos were compelling...” Laila began dancing at the age of five with the Katherine Dunham Youth Company under the direction of Ruby Streate and Theodore Jamison. She earned her B.A. in Dance and M.A. in Education from Loyola Marymount University. As part of her Physical Education Credential, she is a certified National/ Dance Institute Instructor. She has studied and performed with Diane DeFranco-Browne, Winifred R. Harris, Michael Mizerany, Rosangela Silvestre, and Luiz Badaró. Laila has served as faculty of the Santa Monica and Los Angeles Community Colleges and has volunteered for several community organizations including Kittsville Youth Foundation, Masjid Ibn Rabah Walk for Wellness, and A Place Called Home. In 1994, Laila dazzled audiences as a “Drum Dancer” for The Lion King Parade at the Disneyland Resorts. She currently teaches Physical Education and Dance at Foshay Learning Center and recently co-taught and performed at the 2016 Miami Dade College A.I.R. Dance Conference. Laila was nominated for a Lester Horton Dance Award for Best Female Performance for Yabas/Queens in 2005. She traveled to Salvador, Bahia in 2007 for intensive study of Afro-Brazilian dance and music. Laila has been a core member of Viver Brasil since 2004.
Ajah Muhammad-Hays earned a BFA in Dance from Arizona State University. She also studied with Arizona Ballet and Scorpius Dance Theatre, traveled to Senegal to study West African traditional and contemporary dance at Germaine Acogny’s acclaimed L'Ecole Des Sables under the tutelage of Toubab Dialaw in 2011, and studied contemporary and jazz dance with Lula Washington Dance Theatre in the summer dance intensive and participated in the apprentice program. In 2013, she joined Viver Brasil as apprentice, traveled to Salvador, Bahia, with the company’s cultural exchange program, “Dancing at the Source," studying with Jose Ricardo Sousa, Mestre King and Dona Cici, among others. In 2015 she became a company member of Viver Brasil.
Rachel Hernandez (dancer) began her professional studies in Salvador, Bahia. She has had the privilege to study with landmark masters such as: Mestre King, Joffre Santos, Rosangela Silvestre, Vera Passos, Nildinha Fonseca, Matias Santiago, as well as at the Escola de Dança, Balé Folclórico da Bahia, and UFBA. She is skilled in Afro-Brazilian dance, Modern and Ballet. Rachel danced with Grupo Genisis, Elisio Pitta’s Balá da Mata, Fusion Dance Company, Ballet Santa Barbara, and in the legendary production Saurê. She works for the Children’s Creative project and LA's BEST Program introducing Afro-Brazilian dance to scores of elementary school children. She currently performs with Viver Brasil and Ballet Folclórico do Brasil and has developed her signature Afro-Brazilian dance classes being taught throughout LA County. Rachel also studies the art of Capoeira under Mestre Amen Santos. She has been with Viver Brasil since 2009.
Nagodè Simpson (dancer), a Knoxville, TN native, began dancing at the age of five. Since the age of ten, Nagodè has studied, performed and taught various dance styles including West African, modern, jazz, ballet technique, hip-hop and fusion styles. Nagodè attended Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU), where she obtained a B.S. in Chemistry with minors in dance and biology. She was a member of MTSU’s Dance Theater Company and MTSU Performing Arts Company. Nagodè has traveled as a dance student and freelance dancer to twenty U.S. states, the Caribbean and parts of Russia. Born into a family of singers in the southern United States, Nagodè’s passion for music was ignited through her mother’s sweet vocal ability and her personal encounters with gospel jazz and soul music. She is currently pursuing a songwriting career here in Los Angeles, California. Nagode joined Viver Brasil in 2013.
Shelby Williams-Gonzalez (choreographer / dancer) has danced with LA-based groups such as Diana MacNeil and the Posthouse Dance Group, The Yorke Dance Project, and Louise Reichlin and Dancers. She has a Bachelor’s in Dance and Anthropology from UC Berkeley. While in Berkeley she was a member of the Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble, Patricia Reedy Dancers and Robert Moses’ Kin. Shelby completed the Silvestre Technique program in Salvador, Bahia, where she was certified as an instructor of this Brazilian based modern dance technique. As an arts educator, Shelby serves as the Artistic Director for artworxLA (formerly The HeArt Project), a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the arts to alternative high schools. As an artist, she draws from her diverse foundation in contemporary dance, martial arts, and traditional and contemporary Afro-Brazilian movement. Shelby joined Viver Brasil in 2004.
Natali Micciche earned a BA in Dance and Sociology from UC-Riverside. Natali has an eclectic dance background, studying West African, Dunham and Graham techniques, Haitian folkloric, Contemporary, Modern, Ballet, Hip-Hop, and Afro-Brazilian with Viver Brasil and Anna B. Scott. She studied acting under the direction of Rickerby Hinds and Joyce Lee. She has served as the head choreographer and performance coach, teaching dance and inspiring people of all ages, for the Mary Williams Kandid Kompany and worked with Youth Policy Institute, Mosholu Montefiore Center, Hudson Guild, Branded Body, and Brotherhood Crusade. She has performed with Balandugu Kan, Compton Dance Theatre, Vashti Dance Theatre, Forces of Nature, and appeared in Rocky Dawuni’ s African Thriller video. She performed at the University of Capetown’s Confluences VI with Re-Memberings Dance Company. She joined Viver Brasil as an associate company member in 2015.
Kahlil Cummings (percussionist), whose rhythmic gifts as a performer, composer and educator have led him to study in Africa, Brazil, and Cuba to broaden his knowledge and musical strength. He has played for the Ballet Folclórico do Brasil, Swing Brazil, Sona Sane’, Abalaye, Inu Olorun, MILA Samba School, and Les Amazones and with artists Munyungo Jackson, Wunmi from Nigeria, and Rocky Dawuni from Ghana. Kahlil has studied percussion with Felipe Garcia, Cha' Cha, José Ricardo Sousa and Munyungo Jackson. He is most profoundly influenced by Master Drummer Mamady Keita, with whom he’s studied since age thirteen in Conakry, Guinea. Khalil is a founding member of Balandugu Kan which was sanctioned by Keita as representing “the voice of Balandugu", Keita’s village. Kahlil is a Professor of capoeira, which he has studied since he was six with Mestre Amen Santo of Capoeira Batuque. His compositions can be heard on Kahlil’s recently released CD, Indike Kun by Balandugu Kan. Kahlil has been with Viver Brasil since 2010.
Simon D. Carroll
Simon D. Carroll (percussionist) is an active musician in the world, pop and orchestral music scene of Los Angeles. Simon is a member of Los Angeles bands Marbella, Samba Society, MôForró, Os Zagueiros, Bloco Nove, and Delta Nove. He also regularly plays with Batukaxé, Brasilidade, and Brasil Brazil Show with Ana Gazzola and Sonia Santos. Simon is the timpanist for the Música Angélica Baroque Orchestra, which tours internationally with the opera The Giacomo Variations, starring John Malkovich. He studied intensively throughout Brazil and Cuba and is the apprentice to the internationally renowned Brazilian percussionist Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro. Simon is a classically trained musician at California State University of Northridge in Orchestral Percussion, Jazz, and Composition. He teaches children at the Silverlake Conservatory of Music and trains capoeira with Mestre Amen Santos at Brasil Brasil Cultural Center in Culver City. He joined Viver Brasil in 2013.
Bobby Easton (percussionist / guitarist), a versatile multi-instrumentalist and producer, has been deeply involved in the Brazilian community of Southern California since 1994, after he made his first of many trips to Brazil to study music and capoeira. He holds a BA in anthropology with a minor in music from CSULB. He has been a teacher for over two decades, teaching academics, drumming, arts and music through the Long Beach School District. Bobby plays with Brazilian bands Samba Society, Os Zagueiros, and Swing Brazil. He has also formed and leads the L.A.-based group Bloco Nove, who made their debut performance at the largest Carnaval on the west coast in 2013. In 1996 Bobby formed Delta Nove, which blends American funk with many Brazilian elements and rock, reggae and more. He has performed or recorded with diverse artists such as George Clinton, Dr. John, Ozomatli, Beck, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Dennis Coffey, Mangueira samba school, Tonho Materia, and many more. Bobby is also the founder and producer of the highly successful Long Beach Funk Fest, founded in 2009, which is attended by 15,000 people annually. He joined Viver Brasil in 2013.
Katia Moraes (vocalist) is a Brazilian singer / songwriter / dancer / painter from Rio de Janeiro. In 2010 she released Tribo, her 5th CD with Sambaguru. In January 2013, Katia released her solo EP, Cabeça. Katia performs regularly in Los Angeles with her band Sambaguru, Pure Samba, and Samba Society. She received the L.A. Treasure Award from the California Traditional Music Society, for the Pure Samba project. TheLos Angeles Times wrote that Moraes “... comes on stage like an explosion... her voice excited and dynamic.” Katia has been with Viver Brasil since 2007.
Fabio Santana de Souza
Fabio Santana de Souza (trombonist / percussionist) is a native of São Paulo, Brazil where he studied music at Conservatório Dramático Musical Carlos Campos. He has taught marching bands and different classes at public schools in Brazil. He moved to Los Angeles in December 2012 and has already played with many local bands such as Samba Society, Salt Petal, Os Zagueiros, Bloco Nove, Cecilia Noel and the Wild Clams, and Quadron. He is also a forró dancer/teacher at Brasil Brasil Cultural Center. Fabio joined Viver Brasil in 2013.
Kana Shimanuki (guest-artist), a Canadian-born singer raised in Los Angeles, California, brings her Brazilian-Japanese roots to Viver Brasil with her eclectic voice and style, incorporating Brazilian music, jazz, R&B and classical music into her singing. Kana has a degree in vocal jazz from UCLA where she studied with noted jazz educators, Michele Weir, Tamir Handelman and James Newton. She is noted for her ability to move effortlessly in different styles and natural ability to improvise. Kana is currently signed with Universal Music.
Nakeiltha “Nikki” Campbell
Nakeiltha “Nikki” Campbell (percussionist) was born in Panama and currently resides in Los Angeles. She has worked with a wide array of diverse artists such as Mamady Keita and Balandugu Kan, Bakra Bata, Les Amazones (The Woman Master Drummers of Guinea), Stevie Wonder, Robertito Melendez, Ozomatli, Quetzal, Candy Sosa, Mariachi Divas, Adaawe, Gospel Fest (Andre Grouch), The Rebirth, Sy Smith, Tita Lima, and Miguel Atwood Ferguson Ensemble featuring Bilal. She has appeared in the 2005–2009 Image Awards, the 53rd Grammy Awards and American Idol. Nikki is the music supervisor for Olivia Entertainment. Her film credits include Love and Other Four Letter Words and My Girl Friend’s Back. She is currently directing her own documentary on female drummers called Las Tamboleras. She teaches percussion to scores of children throughout the Los Angeles Unified School District, especially empowering young girls with her music.