Fadouba Oularé - djembe master

Fadouba Oularé was the first Guinean djembefola to be recognized around the world. Fadouba was born in 1936 in Sankaran at Koumandi Barnatou in the subprefecture of Bendou Cérékor, 40 km from Faranah. From an early age, his relatives went to consult a sorcerer, who learned that Fadouba would be a great drummer who would travel around the world. His father Youssouf Oulare was a drummer so Fadouba learned from him and accompanied him at festivals. At the age of 15, Fadouba was the best drummer around and his reputation grew rapidly.

Fadouba enlisted in the army to ensure an income for his family. At that time the Guinean army was requisitioned by the French army and Fadouba fought for France in Indochina in 1951 and again in Algeria in 1958.

In 1959, just after Guinea's Independence, Sekou Toure and Fodeba Keita decided to create a ballet together with the country's best artists: "Les Ballets Africans". Rehearsals had already started and the ballet was soon on tour but they missed a lead drummer. Fadouba came to Conakry to attend the rehearsals and was appointed as head drummer. He toured with the ballet in France, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Algeria, Morrocco, the Soviet Union, China, Germany, Congo, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Vietnam, Korea, Japan and the USA.

Image of Fadouba Oulare

In 1961, he joined the Ballet d'Armee (Military Ballet) as lead drummer. In 1964 Fadouba founded Ballet Djoliba which recruited Mamady Keita and he decided in 1965 to give his place in the Ballets Africains to Famoudou Konate.

In 1980, the Portuguese attempted to invade Guinea via Guinea Bissau. Fadouba participated in the fighting. From 1980 to 1986, he guarded the border side Kondar. In 1991, he was released from the army and resumed drumming in Faranah. In 1995 he was recalled to fight against incursions by Sierra Leonean rebels in the Faranah region.

After resettling in his compound in Faranah with his three wives and 34 children, Fadouba continued to perform and to pass his knowledge on to some of his sons as well as to students from around the world who sought him out. Fadouba also continued to travel to Europe to perform and teach. He became renowned for his generous spirit and teaching style.

Besides his career as an artist and soldier, Fadouba was also a head of clan, medicine man and renowned hunter in the country. For nearly 20 years, the mission was to search for thieves for the army. He was a specialist in playing for certain masks such as the Kawa and Soliwulen, specific to Sankaran.

Fadouba died on 26 January 2010. He was one of the grand masters in the true Malinke tradition of the djembe as well as the ballets. He had a virtuosity and a series of his own created strokes that added colour to his playing, yet his playing embodied the old world of djembe. His presence commanded respect and admiration. His loss was strongly felt but he left an indelible mark on his peers and on all his students and fans around the world.

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