Dr. Brian Willson is a professional musician, educator, author, and student of African Diaspora heritage in the Americas. He has been authorized by traditional intellectuals as a specialist in the Yoruba system of Ifa (Babalawo).   He received his doctoral degree from City University of New York Graduate Center. As a percussionist/conductor/lecturer he has performed in over 25 countries, working with a wide variety of artists including Big Nick Nicholas, Katy Roberts, Morris Lang, Pauline Oliveros, Ivo Perelman, Rasul Siddik, the Mystery Brothers, Salim Washington, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Freddie MacGregor, Gloria Gaynor, Roberta Flack; along with numerous tours of the Broadway shows A Chorus Line, Evita, and  Chess. His work is represented on over 15 recordings, DVDs, and television specials. He is endorsed by Paiste Cymbals, Evans Drumheads, Lang Percussion, and Regal tip drumsticks. He recently retired from Brooklyn College after 28 years of service as professor and Director of Concerts.  In 2011 was he nominated as a trustee to the Board of Directors of Education Africa, USA. He is currently writing a book on Brazilian Candomble communities, and travels to Brazil regularly. He now directs his energies to family, Ifa studies, writing, and charitable endeavors.



By Brian Willson 
Foreword by Robert Farris Thompson 


The Egúngún society is one of the least-studied and written-about aspects of African diasporic spiritual traditions. It is the society of the ancestors, the society of the dead. Its primary function is to facilitate all aspects of ancestor veneration. Though it is fundamental to Yorùbá culture and the Ifá/Òrìṣà tradition of the Yorùbá, it did not survive intact in Cuba or the US during the forced migration of the Yorùbá in the Middle Passage. Taking hold only in Brazil, the Egúngún cult has thrived since the early 1800s on the small island of Itaparica, across the Bay of All Saints from Salvador, Bahia. Existing almost exclusively on this tiny island until the 1970s (migrating to Rio de Janeiro and, eventually, Recife), this ancient cult was preserved by a handful of families and flourished in a strict, orthodox manner.