Arafan Toure - djembe master

Arafan Toure was born in Conakry in 1937. He grew up playing rhythms on tin cans and wooden boxes on the streets with his friends, and listening to the adults playing after school. There were no borders in those days, so the markets and street stalls attracted merchants from neighbouring countries and all over Guinea, who brought their music along. This is how Arafan learned the music of Guinea, as well as Djole, Yamama and other Sierra Leonean rhythms. The director of the popular performing group "Djole Club" saw Arafan play and recruited him as soloist. Arafan was 20 years old at the time and toured with them to the Ivory Coast. It was during this time that he played two djembes simultaneously for the first time and became famous for being the first person to do it.

Image of Arafan Toure

Arafan's father was opposed to Arafan's dedicating his life to music and got him a job as a mechanic. While Arafan was repairing a car, a delegation from the Ministry of Culture summoned him to join Les Ballets Africains!

Arafan was the youngest player in the group, but created lots of new rhythms for the ballet and toured with them for 26 years until 1985. his role with the ballet included soloist, composer, arranger, recruiter and trainer of new musicians. Arafan played djembe, dununba, siko, calabash and krin. his constant flow of new compositions earned him the nickname, "Docteur de Rythme" (Doctor of Rhythm).

In 1985 Arafan joined the groups Fatala (discovered by Peter Gabriel) and "Africa Soli". He gave lessons and workshops in the Netherlands, France, Sweden and Ireland. In 1986 he moved to the Netherlands. Once a year he took an international group of students on a trip to Guinea to study percussion.

Arafan died unexpectedly in Arnhem, The Netherlands during the night of 17th May 2003, aged 66. He was buried in Guinea on June 6th 2003, at the Cemetery Cameroun in Conakry. His body was carried by ex members of Les Ballets Africains and Ballet Djoliba.