A Tribute to Paul Engel

The '80s-'90s Famoudou Konaté Ensemble, with Famoudou Konaté, Paul Engel, Fanta Kaba & Silvia Kronewald

This was written by and is being published here with permission of the Chicago Djembe project.

This email is a tribute to Paul Bernard Engel (b. 9/28/1951), the grandfather of the German Djembe Community (http://www.paul-djembe.de) who blessed so many people’s lives –professionally and personally.
Paul Bernhard Engel passed away on June 12, 2012. Everyone — especially younger drummers who hadn’t even begun playing djembe “back in the day” — should know who Paulwas.

Together with his partner Silvie Kronewald, who also died prematurely (in 1997), Paul was one of the first to bring knowledge (even awareness!) of Malinke music to the Western world, introducing European musicians to its intricacies and nuances with a fierce dedication.

In North America, many djembe students and teachers may have seen his name on a classic CD: in the 1980s, Paul Engel was contracted by the Ethnological Museum of Berlin to produce field recordings of the legendary Famoudou Konate on location in Conakry/Simbaya. Since these recordings were released in 1991, along with extensive liner notes and notation, this CD has become a Malinke classic. Known in many English-speaking circles as “the Museum CD”, “Rhythmen der Malinke” was one of the first recorded documents of traditional Malinke music in Guinea.

The six-year period (1986-1991) that Paul Engel and Silvie Kronewald spent working intimately, and exclusively, with Famoudou Konaté (former first soloist for the National Ballet of Guinea/Les Ballets Africains de Guineé) — organizing workshops, concerts, classes and European tours with Konaté and his entourage (Fanta Kaba, Daouda Kourouma, and others) — represented a profound turning point in Paul’s life. Paul was already an accomplished guitarist, pianist and percussionist when he first began working with Konaté — he was well-versed in Latin American traditions, and had become an expert on “Adama Dramé-technique” from extensive study and collaboration with Dramé in Germany, France and Senegal; he had also studied with members of the Tettey-Addy family in Ghana.

But none of these traditions captivated his genius the way the rhythms of the Malinke did.Paul made a significant and pioneering contribution to the worldwide understanding of this music by transcribing Malinke rhythms as they were played by master drummers in Guinean villages–in their entirety, with bass lines, variations, solos — into classical Western musical notation. Paul’s transcription of these rhythms — both in classic Western notation and in the modified notational system he devised to bring them “to paper” even for students of the music who do not read music — represent invaluable documentation of a musical form and musical events that may have otherwise been lost. Paul played a pivotal role in developing the intensive workshop format and pedagogical approach that has since become an international standard for quality instruction in the rhythms of the Malinke.

Through years of annual, extended stays in West Africa and playing at traditional festivals there (with Adama Dramé, Famoudou Konaté, Mamady Keita, Fadouba Olaré, Daouda Kourouma, Noumoudy Keita, and many others), Paul developed an incredible and profound understanding of the music and culture of the Malinke, which he shared freely and expertly with all of his students. In 1986, Paul was the first European drummer to bring students (a small group of drummers from Berlin) to study on location in Conakry, Guinea.

His dedication to the music, to his students, and his expert pedagogy soon made him one of the most sought-after teachers in Germany and Europe. From 1994 to 2010, he offered multi-year training seminars in Malinke music at his compound in Germany. His passion for Malinke music was matched by an intense passion for teaching, and for his students. Paulwas not only a skilled and extremely knowledgeable music instructor and professional musician, he was an extraordinary human being who shared valuable life wisdom as freely and with as much passion as he had for the music. His brilliant ear for precision and perfection in the music was equally open and attentive to his students’ non-musical concerns, and he could always be counted upon to provide genuine and wise counsel. Paulmasterfully combined passion, precision and perfection to a work of art in his relationships to the music, and to the students’ whose lives have been so enriched by his own.

Students came to Paul from all over Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark and Sweden to participate in Paul’s intensive training program — the first ever of its kind, not only in Europe, but in the world. Many of Paul’s former students have gone on to become professionals in their own right — and there is hardly a qualified instructor or student of Malinke music who does not ultimately trace his/her lineage back to Paul Engel, Grandfather of the European Djembe Community. In almost every German city, there is a djembe instructor who was trained by Paul Engel — but his contributions have benefited international djembe communities — from Holland to Japan, the US, Canada and beyond.

In 2010, Paul suffered a heart attack, then lay in a coma for three weeks and never fully recovered.

Please send positive thoughts, love and rhythms to accompany Paul on his last journey with the drums. Drum for him, if you can.

In loving memory of an excellent teacher and extraordinary human being, and a true friend, we wish him all the best on this last leg of his journey.

(Posted on behalf of Paul Engel’s students and friends in Europe and North America.)

Famoudou Konate djembe workshops

Once again, I am thrilled to announce Famoudou Konate‘s 2009 Chicago
Workshop May 14th – 17th and the Special for Advanced Players workshop May
18th & 19th.

May 14th – 17th (Thursday – Sunday)

The workshops will take place at Gilson Park in Wilmette, Illinois.
Thursday and Friday (May 14th & 15th) are from 6:00pm – 10:30pm
Saturday (May 16th) is from 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Sunday (May 17th) is from 10:30am-3:00pm
Each class includes 4 hours of instruction.
Space is limited and registration is required
(sorry, no walk-ins accepted).
The cost for the workshop is as follows; all 4 days $365.00 or daily rate of
$100 per day.

May 18th – 19th (Monday & Tuesday)

The location is to be announced (may be north of Chicago next to Metra
Monday and Tuesday (May 18th *& 19th) are from 11:00am – 3:30pm
Each class includes 4 hours of instruction.
Space is limited and registration is required
(sorry, no walk-ins accepted).
The cost for the workshop is $125 per day

To prepare for these special advanced classes you should:
Be familiar with a wide range of Malinke rhythms
Be comfortable playing Dunun (Dance of the Strong Men) rhythms
Have mastered the 6/8 kenkeni patterns and “off” djembe
accompaniment parts

Because of the advanced material and pace of these workshops, students may
not be able to master all of the material by the completion of each class.
Famoudou will provide a cleaning recording of the class to assist students
with further study of the material.

If you’re able to attend these workshops, register soon as it is expected
that we will be sold out once again this year.

Registration is available at


(you may register
on-line, by mail or by phone 847-543-0708). Once your registration is
received we will send you a confirmation.

Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions at
helen@medusadrums.com or 847-543-0708.

Workshop Details ………..

Maître du Djembe – Master of the Djembe Famoudou Konaté is a world-renowned
virtuoso of the djembe drum and its orchestra. One of only a handful of
initiated Masters of the Malinké drumming tradition, Famoudou is universally
respected as one of the world’s premiere djembe Drum Masters. He has
dedicated his life to performing and preserving the music of his people,
helping to elevate the djembe orchestra from its traditional roots to
worldwide popularity. Fode Camara (also from Guinea) will again join the
tour as his Sangbanfola.

From Hand to Hand

Famoudou’s Wassa Kunba! teaching system involves an intensive 4 hours of
instruction per day and ensures that you will leave with everything you will
need to study and perform a complete Malinké rhythm. You’ll learn the basic
rhythms on the three dununs and the djembe accompaniment parts. Famoudou
will also teach echauffements (the patterns that “heat up” the song), djembe
solo techniques, introductions and breaks, dunun variations and even songs
that accompany the rhythms in the village. You’ll learn the origins of each
rhythm; receive expert instruction on all instruments in the traditional
Malinké djembe orchestra while deepening your understanding of the place of
music, dance and song in West African life.

Wassa Kunba! – “Great Joy!”

Through these amazing workshops, Famoudou Konaté shares with everyone the
great joy of traditional Malinké hand drumming from Guinea, West Africa.

A workshop with Famoudou is like nothing else out there. His enthusiasm and
energy are absolutely infectious. Famoudou’s drum speaks with unsurpassed
clarity, communicating the musical heritage of his people and the universal
strength of the human spirit. He engages everyone, creating a joyful
environment where we together enjoy the uplifting beauty of the Malinké

Whatever your background or experience level, take this unique opportunity
to study with this living legend and truly great master.

Improve your skills and experience Wassa Kunba! with Famoudou Konaté.

Other tour cities include; Dallas, Washington, D.C., Boston,
Montreal-Quebec, Portland-Oregon, Calgary-Alberta, Columbia-South Carolina
and Fort Collins-Colorado. Check out the complete tour on

. We hope to see you during the tour!

If your looking for an even deeper connection to the Malinke music and its
culture there will be only two workshops with Famoudou in Guinea this coming
winter. I’ll be organizing the workshop in Guinea with Famoduou with a trip
to his village of Sangbaralla – January to February 2010. There will also be
a workshop December 2009 to January 2010.(details will be posted soon on our

Best Wishes,

Helen Bond