Lamine Soumah - djembe master

Lamine Soumah was born on 1st January 1949 in Dubreka, Kindia, Guinea. He grew up playing the djembe while attending a French school. His playing impressed Famoudou Konate, who took him on as a student. This led to him joining Conakry II Arrondissement Ballet in 1964, at the age of 15, effectively ending his school days and marking his path as a djembefola.

The following year, he was awarded the Best Percussionist Diploma at the National Arts Festival. All those awarded at the festival were offered free travel to Cuba. This is how he received his nickname, Lopez.

In 1974, the former President of Guinea, Ahmed Seckou Toure, awarded him an official distinction of honour for his performance of the Conakry II Ballet's piece "Tam Tam Emporte-Moi" (The drum takes me) and he also won a second best percussionist diploma, as Outstanding Artist.

Image of Lamine Lopez Soumah

In 1975, Lamine joined Les Ballets Africains, touring around the world with them for 7 years. In 1982 he joined the Koteba Ensemble of Souleymane Koly, in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, with which he toured for 5 years. He returned to Guinea in 1987 to become the Manager and very first soloist of Les Percussions de Guinée, Guinea's National Ensemble. The following year he received a Diploma as Professor of Percussion at an International Percussions training session in Saint-Omer, France. Lopez continued to tour the world with Percussions de Guinée and became Artistic Director of the ensemble in 1997.

Lopez was a patriot of his country and was dedicated to training the next generation of djembefolas. He taught many great young drummers like Ibrahima Boka Camara, Fara Tolno and Mohamed Bangourake. He also gave workshops in many countries and took on students from around the world for workshops in Conakry.

Tragically, Lamine Soumah fell ill and died in Conakry on August 10, 2004, aged only 55. His solo style can be characterised as elegant, articulate, understated and highly musical. His technique was immaculately clean. As a human being he was generous, a devout Muslim, husband and father of 8. As a teacher he commanded concentration from his students and gave his fullest in return. He left his imprint on the younger generation of djembefolas in Conakry, his peers and on his students around the world.