The Joy Collaborative is about creating and sharing JOY.


This project is inspired by the joyful sounds of the music found on the continent of Africa. These sounds have been the “call” that three artists in the United States have created a “response” to. Their response is music that uplifts and refreshes the soul.


The music of Africa is expansive, expressive and transformational. It springs from a long history of voicing Spirit’s reality and power through sound. From tribal songs played on one-stringed instruments to intricate polyrythmic chants played on drums, or sung; to modern electronic music, cutting edge bands and choirs of stunning power… Africa has as large a range of music as Africa is herself.


It would be a mistake to stereotype and pigeonhole the music produced on this amazing continent, including the islands off the coasts of both sides of Africa; from Madagascar on the eastern side to Cape Verde on the western side. There are many tribes, cultures, customs, and religions within Africa… and within each country of Africa. Each country has distinct and varied styles of music and the people their own unique ways of how that music is expressed, derived from a vibrant history that courses through generations past.


In this interplay and unfolding of the rich cultures and history of Africa there is, in the music, a joy that can be heard and felt through it all. It seems to emanate from the continent as a whole; as a unified entity, no matter the human-made divisions. Perhaps it is the instruments themselves, hewn from the earth, sculpted with the heart, and played by the spirit. Perhaps it is Africa’s placement in the warmest area of the planet, or because of its role as the birthplace of humanity. Or, perhaps it comes from a deep commitment to make a joyful noise no matter what life brings… to celebrate that we are here, and here with each other, able to share the gift of life, laughter, family, friends and community.


It does not take much to create joy. It simply takes willingness. A metal can or glass bottle struck rhythmically with a stick will do. Voices chanting together in syncopated harmonies will suffice. Ululations that split the air, saying things no words can match, will work just fine. It is the creative, expressive soul that makes the difference; that uses what is available as an instrument… of joy.


It is this joy we want to hold within ourselves and share with you.


The music presented on this website is our combined effort to honor what Africa has given us. We hope it inspires you in whatever way is meant.


 We call it…


The seeds that have inspired this project began with playwright and musician Dr. Jeannine Goode-Allen of Boulder, Colorado. Jeannine’s passion for the music of Africa fueled a vision to perform the music of this vast continent. Gravitating to its innate joy, she decided to make it happen; to take in as much knowledge as she could while experiencing the joy she felt through the singing, movement, and rhythms. She asked her husband, David Sharp, a writer and tap dancer, if he wanted to join her in this pursuit. He said yes. She then sought out composer and music educator Gary Grundei, who agreed to join Jeannine and David on this odyssey. Together, they dove into Africa.


Beginning in March of 2012 the three of them began taking African singing classes, learning many songs from different countries; from lullabies to songs that demanded movement while singing. David and Jeannine took African dance classes. Gary guided them weekly, looking at a different country each week; from the tribes and peoples to the politics, music, songs and dance that each country produced. They spent two and a half years touring Africa through whatever means they could find, including online tutorials, books, videos, going to see African Artists perform, and talking with artists that came to the Denver/Boulder area to teach. They experienced artists from Ghana to Zimbabwe, from Mali to South Africa. They have listened to thousands of songs, read about hundreds of artists, and looked at countless videos about the culture, wisdom and beauty of Africa. They have studied the ancient histories and present-day aesthetics that form the ground from which the music is created.


The goal?


The goal is to experience for themselves the joy they witness in the people, hear through the music and songs… and to understand the spiritual nature and source of such joy. They believe music is a universal language – and the music of Africa speaks to them loudly. Their desire is to let what they have discovered influence their own creation of music, and the performance of that music. The Joy Collaborative is about sharing this JOY… a joy that has grown from musical seeds blown into their souls from the continent of Africa.


“There will ultimately be nine songs presented here, as the next few months unfold. We hope you enjoy the first one… WHERE DO YOU FIND JOY?”

 (Jeannine, David and Gary)


Where Do You Find Joy?

Inspired by Jeannine Goode-Allen

Written by Gary Grundei and David Sharp        Vocals & arrangement by David Sharp        Mixed by Gary Grundei


One Saturday morning, I was at the Farmer’s Market in Boulder. I felt like a Mack truck had hit me. The grief my body was holding was so heavy I could barely breathe. And then I heard it: “da-da dink-dink dink-dink dink-dink da-dink-dink.” Music notes like little drops of joy were floating through the rays of Colorado sunshine, gently entering me, and I could feel myself begin to breathe more comfortably. The sadness I had felt for years was lifting. Like a child following the Pied Piper of Hamlin, I followed the music until I found the marimba band Kutandara, which plays music from the African country of Zimbabwe. I wanted to stay there forever just soaking in the Joy of the “Wood that sings” (= marimba!).

This song is a tribute to the marimba. We invite you to listen, dance along and explore the question: “Where Do You Find Joy?”

– Jeannine Goode-Allen


His Name is Holy

Written and Arranged by David Sharp

Sung by David Sharp (lead), Jeannine Goode-Allen and Gary Grundei

 soweto 5  US gospel choir oakland interfaith  soweto-gospel-choir-1  US gospel choir 1

His Name is Holy is inspired by my observance of the African passion for gospel music. African gospel comes from a deep well of faith and is expressed in powerful harmonies and stunning rhythms. The Soweto Gospel Choir (first and third picture from the left) is a great example of gospel music, African style. Gospel music emerged from the African-American experience in the United States, and is sung and appreciated the world over by choirs of diverse make up, as the Oakland Interfaith Choir attests (second and fourth picture from left). No longer is it just United States citizens of African descent writing and singing gospel music in the African-American tradition. Our partner on this Joy Collaborative project, Gary Grundei, is not African-American, and he directs a gospel choir, and has written gospel music. Yes, gospel music belongs to all of us. The sounds of joy, hope and faith, as expressed in gospel, are infectious and can be appreciated no matter your spiritual background, cultural heritage or beliefs.

As the African diaspora created new musical styles in other lands, and as that music reached back to Africa, the cross fertilization was inevitable. African roots can be heard in gospel music’s rhythms and harmonies. In His Name is Holy, I have honored the African influences and intertwined them with my cultural roots, having grown up in gospel rich Atlanta, Georgia, with a dad who was a pastor and a mom who always sang in the choir. You will hear African rhythms played on African percussion instruments played and mixed alongside traditional western drum set rhythms. You will hear the influences of the African mbira and marimba instruments. You will hear the deep bass voices of men, especially at the end, a sound that is featured in African gospel. All of these inclusions honors and celebrates the beautiful interplay between the cultural aesthetics of African and African-American gospel music. Plus, it just sounds good to the ear and feels good to the soul. EnJOY..!

– David Sharp

WE are the ones

Written by Gary Grundei

baka musicians

One of the highlights for me of our research into the music of Africa was the music of the Pygmy peoples of central Africa. The tradition is incredibly rich and exciting, from water drumming to hindewhu (in which the performer makes a melody by singing pitches alternated with playing a single-pitched flute). But in listening again recently, it was the polyrhythms (permutations of 2 against 3) that I found to be completely entrancing. Here’s an example:

At the same time, in my own spiritual practice, I’ve been enjoying great benefits from listening at certain therapeutic times to music specifically created to enhance bilateral stimulation. The theory is that such left/right oscillation can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system associated with awake relaxation. Now, I’m no scientist, but it seems to work wonders for me, with the only caveat that I usually find such music to be pretty banal when listened to as a thinking musician. Here’s one of the better examples of such music specifically created for bilateral stimulation:

And so, I asked myself, could such a music be created that involves the intricate and deep rhythms of the Pygmy tribes and still allow the quiet joy of bilateral stimulation? And, coincidentally, I unconsciously found myself using a similar technique to hindewhu in that I created melodies that I picked apart to be played alternating between the left and right side.

Also, I have found the sound of whispering to help induce a relaxation response in my body. So, because I didn’t want text specifically, but a sense of human intimacy and kindness, I recorded myself reading, in whispered voice, June Jordan’s “Poem for South African Women,” a profound piece about “women whispering / imagination to the trees,” which ends with the famous phrase, “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”  The full text of the poem can be found here:  The whispering is completely abstracted in the recording so that, hopefully, the sensation of whispering is present without the cognitive distraction of words.

Please use headphones for the optimal listening experience and do not operate heavy machinery while listening. Feel free to drop me a line to let me know your experience! I’m at holyreverendgary ( at ) gmail ( dot ) com.

– Gary


I Am Still Here

Text by David Sharp, Music by Gary Grundei

Performed by David Sharp with the Mosaic Gospel Choir, Gary Grundei, Director


While I was teaching at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY this past summer, I dropped in on a movement class that someone was teaching. During the session, the teacher played a recording that I recognized from our many months of listening to music from Africa. I started singing along and found myself crying tears of joy and of release. I meant to ask after the class what the recording was so that I could return to it, because I couldn’t place which country it was from or who the artist was. Alas, I did not.

A couple of months later, I was sitting in David’s studio talking about many things—songwriting, African music, life choices, poetry, the events surrounding Michael Brown’s death and the protests in Ferguson, MO. David shared with me a recording from the library of African music we had compiled that he had been listening to the night before that affected him. It was the very same recording that I had been so moved by in that dance class in New York! I was able to see then that the song was Kenyan Ayub Ogada’s Kothbiro. Here’s a link to that song:

As I heard the piece again, which has mostly open vowels, I wondered if the Mosaic Gospel Choir ( that I conduct in Boulder could sing that song or perhaps I could write one like it, in an attempt to show support or solidarity for the communities around our country like Ferguson and New York and countless others that are struggling to come to terms with what happens next after such deep racial injustice takes place.  I wondered if such a piece could be paired with a moving poem.  It just so happened that I knew an author of such moving poems:  Rev. Dr. David Sharp.  I went back to my copy of his book, “I’m a Black Man, Who Are You?” and suggested to David that we collaborate.  That book, by the way, is, in my humble opinion, required reading for anyone living in America today, and can be found here:

The recording you hear below is a live one from our Fall concert and is offered as a sort of prayer.  I invited the singers to join the piece as their whole selves, with whatever questions or emotions they had around race relations and injustice, and the open vowel sounds of “Oh” and “Ah” are intended to hold a wide range of emotions and intent.  The singers each brought their own honest intent to the singing.

Though many injustices (some enumerated in the poem) exist, I still have hope and a kind of rising as I have faith that these stories can be told and these conversations can happen and this standing up can only come from a deep reserve of life energy and god force.  May all sentient beings be free from suffering.  May we understand and be with each other’s pain.  And may we know joy.

– Gary Grundei


Tap Dancing with the Royal Drummers of Burundi

David Sharp and Jeannine Goode-Allen


Click on the link below to view the video

To listen to the Royal Drummers of Burundi is to feast your ears on the intricate rhythms and lively sounds they create. But to watch them is to witness joy in motion. To see the faces of the performers as they enchant the crowd is mesmerizing. To experience their unabashed joy is to want what they have. Yes, you are witnessing a group whose drumming skills are nurtured from childhood. Yes, you are witnessing a group whose athletic movements are practiced for years. But you cannot teach joy! The joy witnessed in this group is there because of a deep well of spirit that connects them to the source of joy itself. And their expression of this joy is both infectious and emancipating. It liberates the watcher, freeing them from life’s pains, sadness, and hopelessness all at once. And if you are in a joyful state already, then watching them will only take you to an even higher level; one that affirms the triumph of joy, one where you understand that to dance, sing and create soul-stirring rhythms is indeed heaven on earth.

I wanted to dance with them. Then, I discovered a video on YouTube where they were performing out in the open, under the sky, and on grass and dirt. I knew that this natural environment was the partner I could use to create an iMovie video mix using green screen. This technology allowed me to live my vision of tap dancing while those amazing men pounded drums, jumped high with legs outstretched, twisted, turned, stomped, smiled and laughed.

I needed a hard, manmade surface to tap dance on, while they were on the most natural of surfaces. Jeannine Goode-Allen joined me in this labor of joy. We were in our enclosed Viriditas Studio while they were under the blue sky. Together, Jeannine and I danced our hearts out and had as much fun as the Burundi drummers were having. We had a blast doing this collaboration. We hope you enjoy watching our efforts as much as we enjoyed doing it.

Here is a link to the Wikipedia page on this percussion ensemble.

For a look at the original video this tap dance was meshed with, click this link:

– David


Greater than the Sum

written by Gary Grundei

with gratitude for the contributions from Felix Blume and the people of Diafarabé


Fela Kuti

‘the best band I’ve ever seen live… When Fela and his band eventually began to play, after a long, crazy build-up, I just couldn’t stop weeping with joy. It was a very moving experience.’ —Paul McCartney on his visit to Lagos in 1972

My aim with ‘Greater than the Sum,’ as with ‘WE are the ones,’ was to utilize binaural stimulation techniques (it’s best listened to in headphones) to invite an awake, relaxed state in the listener, but this time to make a more energized piece. I’ve been listening to Fela Kuti recordings and the way he does, indeed, build in energy and intensity over the course of a 10 minute or more piece is inspiring and exciting. I took inspiration from Fela on this piece. If you want to check out a cool example of Fela’s extended song form, go to

I also found a lovely couple of field recordings made by sound engineer/designer Felix Blume ( when he visited the village of Diafarabé in Mali. One is of a group of Peulh (Fulani) girls singing at night in their home a simple, repetitive song. The other is of a female griot ( singing for a marriage ceremony with all the guests inside a small house. These source recordings are used with much gratitude and respect for Mr. Blume who made them and the musicians who sang the songs originally.

You might want to put on your headphones and listen to this one in the morning or anytime you need to re-energize. There is an energetic swell in the music that happens before and up through 8 minutes into the piece. I invite you to breathe that swell of energy into your center and out through your limbs. There are literally thousands of ancestors rooting for you and offering you energy and wisdom right now.

– Gary


The Singing Wells of Borana

Written by David Sharp

Sung by David Sharp and Jeannine Goode-Allen

 singing wells - 1 Borana - 'Singing Well' Borana - 'Singing Well' singing wells - 2

This song celebrates the singing wells of Borana. The Borana are a semi-nomadic people in southern Ethiopia. They travel great distances to keep their herds fed. For hundreds of years, life has hinged on finding water underneath the surface of the earth during the dry season. The wells of the Borana people are dug by hand and can go as deep as ninety feet. Ladders are made and placed into the deep holes, and men stand in a line, sometimes twenty deep, depending on the water level. They pass water up to each other in buckets and pass the empty buckets back down for filling. As this physical work is being done, the men sing. It s a chant-like chorus and it helps the men keep a steady rhythm as they pass buckets up and down the ladder at an incredibly fast pace.

The wells are sacred places that allow the cattle and people to live in the harsh conditions they are in. There are strict rules governing their usage and the decorum expected at the wells, which are overseen by a well keeper. There is to be no arguing or fighting. If there is, an animal from the instigator’s herd is immediately killed. The animals can drink every three days, and each kind of animal, takes their turn in groups.

I have created a composition to the singing heard at the wells. The real live chanting you hear acts as a drone to composition. The piece features piano, strings, flutes and guitar. I heard in my head these beautiful chords that would give the chant a rich texture of sound.

“Waters of my Ancestors’ Soul” honors the beauty, grace and sacredness of these wells, and what it takes to bring the water to the surface.

For a short look and listen (1:30) of the Singing Wells of Borana, click on this link:

for a longer video (7 minutes) click here:

For an 45-minute look at the people and the wells, click here:



Lyrics and music by David Sharp


Waters of my ancestors’ soul,

may you never run dry…


I will climb down and drink from you.

I will climb down in gratitude.


Thank you for the life you give.

When the ground is dry you let us live.

I give thanks for your waters of life.

I give thanks… you keep us alive.


Waters of my ancestors’ soul,

May you never run dry.

May your waters be blessed.

May your waters be blessed.


No fighting at the well.

There’s no fussing at the well –

this sacred place with all we are…

where all are welcome to life.


No money changing hands.

No trade…

Just the gift of life… you see.

Just the gift of life….


Waters of my ancestors soul…

May you never run dry.

From the high to the low,

the water serves all…

the water serves all.


Singing gratitude to the ancestors.

I will climb down and touch you there,

where life is found

in waters deep beneath the earth.

In song the waters rise

that souls may survive

when the dry season comes

we’ll still be alive…


Waters of my ancestors.

Who We Are

Gary Grundei is a composer and musician who has worked with Meredith Monk, Bill Pullman, Barbara Dilley, Janet Feder, Ron Miles, and the Denver Broncos. His compositions have been heard at Kennedy Center, Denver Center Theatre Company, New York Stage and Film, the Magic Theatre and Boettcher Concert Hall. He has performed at Carnegie Hall and currently teaches at Naropa University in Boulder, CO.

Rev. gary 2

Dr. Jeannine Goode-Allen is a playwright and performer, musician and teacher inspired by the use of sound, poetry and image to elevate and enlighten. Her mission is to help people reconnect to the arts in personal ways that become vehicles for transformation. (


Dr. David Sharp is a poet, writer, performer and Presbyterian minister. He has written for numerous publications, performed on Broadway, in Hollywood film and tv productions, pastored churches in California’s Bay area, has released two CDs, and has a novel published. (


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