Djembe is a great instrument! It can be addictive and so can learning new things.
It’s not always easy to have access to a teacher and as such we wanted to figure out a way we could learn from each other.
In December we started what was to become known as the rhythms of the month. If you haven’t been following it I recommend you have a look as there is some great information on some popular and not so popular rhythms.
You can expect to find: – Cultural information and history – Djembe dundun videos, audio you won’t find anywhere else on the web – variations and solos – songs – discographies – discussion on regional variations, different teacher’s styles …and much much more
Rhythms covered so far are: – Mendiani – Jelifoli – Soli/Suku – Yankadi – Kuku – Tiriba
This is the monthly djembefola.com newsletter, which is emailed to subscribers every month. If you’re not already on the list, why not sign up now!
Hi Djembe lovers, We’ve got a great newsletter for you this month.
First of all don’t miss the chance to win a signed copy of Monette’s new album, Coup d’Eclat. All you have to do is give us some feedback about what you’d like to see more of in the newsletter and on the djembefola.com in general.
We also have a video interview with Master Djembefola, Amara Kante from Guinea, a great new article about how to choose a djembe and much more.
Interview with Master djembefola – Amara Kante
Amara Kante is a unique Guinean djembe master who was born in the Ivory Coast. As such he has a wide range of knowledge across many ethnic groups and musical styles.
He was kind enough to do an interview with me and my friend Pierrot, after a brilliant workshop he gave here in the South of France. I have to say this was the most challenging workshop I’ve ever done and his knowledge goes very deep.
Whether you are buying your first djembe, or considering buying your 10th drum at some point in the future, everyone can learn something from this article.
New Artists Section
Due to positive feed back and a need to better organise our artist’s biographies, we have created a new ‘djembe artists section’. Our ever hard working Bubudi has also added 5 new biographies for us to enjoy. I really enjoy reading these and learning more about the masters who’s music we enjoy so much.
Michael has been around since the early days of djembe interest in Chicago and the birth of Tam Tam Mandingue. This interview covers a wide range of topics including how to become a better player and the existence of the 7 secrets of the djembe.
Michael also gives us a lot of details on what Tam Tam Mandingue is, why it came about and what it hopes to achieve. Michael also gives a lot of detail about Tam Tam Mandingue certification.
Monette Marino Keita‘s eagerly awaited debut albumn, “Coup d’Eclat”, is launched on the 1st of April.
Monette is a world percussionist from the US, who has studied rhythms from Latin America and West Africa. She is also heavily influenced by funk and rock music and has transposed traditional rhythms onto western instruments to create a new category of music she is calling NuAfroBeat.
Monette is well known in djembe circles, as being a screaming djembe player and Mamady Keita’s wife. She can be found on many videos along side Mamady and tours and performs with him regularly.
This is Monette’s first solo project and she wrote all of the music on the album, and the cd was arranged and co-produced by Allan Phillips.
“Coup d’Eclat” is an instrumental explosion of funk, latin and african inspired rhythms and melodies. She he has figured out a way to weave all of these styles together creating a fresh new sound which has been described as if you were to put Santana, James Brown and Fela Kuti all on stage together.
Monette has brought together the most talented musicians to accompany her on guitar, keyboards, bass, saxophone, flute, trumpet, kora and steel drum. If you like upbeat, funky, rock, latin, african and especially percussive music then you must have this CD.
Monette was featured on FOX 5 Morning Show with Arthel Neville on March 15th.
Check out this clip of king of Matoto.
While at the Won Na Won Malan conference in Chicago, Illinois, Paddy caught up with M’bemba Bangoura. Won Na Won Malan was hosted by Moustapha Bangoura, and there were many great drummers and dancers around.
M’Bembe gives us a better idea of who he is, his drumming background, experience and his drumming influences.
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I caught up with Sidiki at the Mama Africa Festival, which took place from the 25th of July until the 1st of August near Mulazzo in Italy.
Sidiki Camera was the lead soloist for the Ballet of Mali for 11 years, so he has knows his way around a djembe and has seen some major changes in the way djembe is approached and played in the last 20 years.
We talked about these changes, djembe technique and Sidiki’s hopes for the future of djembe and more.
The Sabar starts about 30 seconds after we start the interview (it doesn’t last for the entire length of the video and we have done our best job on the sound to improve it’s quality). We apologise for the quality (it’s quite distracting at times), so if you’re having trouble you may like to check out the transcript for this interview.
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It is really quite common for djembe lovers to travel to West Africa between November and March. The weather tends to be best around this time of year and it coincides with the winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
There are many options for those thinking about making the trip. Due to package tours, the cheapest flights are often found from London to Banjul, in The Gambia. Big operators like Air France also operate from Paris to the Ouagadougou, Bamako, Dakar and Conakry starting from about 700 euro.
There are several options available to you when embarking on such an adventure. By far the easiest option available to you is to go with one of several extremely well organised tours.
This is often a very good option for even the most ardent of seasoned, independent travellers. West Africa poses some unique challenges and can be overwhelming the first time you land and it’s easy enough to find yourself in tricky situations.
Paying rent and staying in a compound is definitely an option, but there can often be many unexpected surprises and additional expenses that you didn’t see coming. Likewise agreeing a price with a teacher has been known to not always be the end of the conversation.
This is often understandable when people circumstances or the situation is taken into account, but for some people this can become stressful.
Some feel that it’s easier to just go with a tour, that way you know exactly what you’re paying for and you can have a pretty good idea what to expect.
Going with a tour and usually a known teacher you benefit in many ways:
Less stress – everything is generally organised for you, from airport transfers to food
Local knowledge – The person will likely be able to give you good advice about tuition, buying instruments etc
Performances – Tours visiting compound are usually an opportunity for local artists to perform and teach. As such you can usually look forward to an array or artists and plenty of friendly people around.
Knowing what you’re paying for
Less uncertainty, especially if this isn’t the first year of the tour.
If you decide that a tour is for you then there are many things to further consider. These include:
Group size – smaller is better. If the group will be split, which group are you going to be in and who’s going to be teaching it?
Food – if you are a fussy eater this may be a consideration for you. One of the benefits of an organised tour is not having to worry about food. You may end up worried anyway if you don’t take a liking to the food you’re getting though. I distinctly remember this being an issue for many people on a tour I was on in Guinea.
Many tour operators specifically mention food and it’s worth asking about if you think could be something that concerns you.
The teacher – the styles of teaching and playing can vary hugely from teacher to teacher. Make sure you know the teacher or have at least spoken to somebody who have studied with them before.
Style – leading on from above you may want to consider the style of djembe you are interested in working on. There is a big difference between the way djembe is played in different countries in West Africa
Where – As with style, where you want to be is an extremely important consideration. Besides the obvious, it is worth considering if you would like to visit the villages or whether you would just be happy to stay in a capital.
Many tours offer trips to the villages and these can be an amazing opportunity to see the culture in it’s traditional setting, and experience life in the village for a while.
Authenticity – some people have a preference to go to a source who will teach them original phrasing and parts. I can tell you that it is very different learning dundunbe from Famoudou Konate who’s from Hamana (where the rhythm is from) and learning it from Harouna Dembele from Burkina Faso. This may or may not be of concern to you.
Language – Most West African countries are ex-French colonies, so French is spoken by people there much more than English. This can be quite a barrier to getting to know local people, and it may be something to consider when you decide where you would like to go.
The Gambia and Ghana are both English speaking, but neither is traditionally a djembe playing country. There is plenty of music and culture in these countries though. There are plenty of Guinean djembe players living in the Gambia, some tours to Ghana have been known to bring djembe teachers from Burkina Faso and other countries specifically for tours.
Ghana itself has a fantastic culture of drumming of it’s own. From the Ewe drumming to the Kpanlogo of the Ga people.
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If you’re interested in making the trip you have a wealth of options. From independent travel, to tours and even something quite in the middle, like the djembe hotel.
Be sure to check out our article on drumming study tours in Africa, which include a break down of some of the best djembe and drumming tours in Africa. We have also managed to negotiate quite a few serious discounts for people who book a tour and mention djembefola.com.
Any questions, comments, criticisms? Maybe you’ve been to West Africa, and think I forgot to mention something? Let us know in the comments.
If you’re on Facebook and enjoyed this article, please do us a favour and ‘like it’ below.
Tam Tam Mandingue is a non-profit organisation set up by Mamady Keita to preserve Mandingue music and culture.
Their mission is stated as:
Tam Tam Mandingue USA (TTM USA) is a school of West African drumming dedicated to preserve and transmit Mandingue musical tradition as a tool to promote tolerance, understanding, equality and international peace.
Mory Traore and Aicha Keita are 2 talented dancers and dance teachers from Conakry, Guinea. They currently teach and perform in Sydney, Australia.
Last year James and Drew from the djembefola.com team sat down to have a chat about who they are, where they come from and where they’re going.
So Mory, where are you from and how did you come to dancing?
I was born in Conakry in Guinea, now I live in Sydney Australia. I have been dancing since I was 7 or 8 years. I learnt from Ballet Matam. My teacher’s name was Sekouba Camara and he taught me how to dance and he was a very good teacher.
Sekouba was a big man in the ballets?
Yes Ballet Djoliba, Ballet Africain, but he died 1 month ago, so I am very sad.
From Guinea to Australia, how long have you been living in Sydney?
I have been living here for 3 years now. 2 years ago I teamed up with Jeli Bouba Kuyateh from Melbourne, we toured around Australia, Darwin, Brisbane, Melbourne, Lismore. Performing and teaching a little bit.
Since then I have been working with a group called Drum Beats, doing corporate work as well as many other kinds of performance.
How do you find the corporate stuff compared to what you were doing back home?
Yes it’s very different. It’s like teaching, but it’s really basic. Back home, we work very hard, but here it’s much easier.
In what way is it easier?
With teaching, it is harder because many people, have never danced before. You have to be patient, and teach them slowly. For performance, you know what you are doing, so it’s easy. For teaching, it’s a little harder.
So the dancing comes more easily for someone from Guinea?
Yes its easier for people from Guinea.
I suppose in Africa there they are used to hearing the drumming where as here they aren’t used to the music.
In Guinea we’re drumming all the time. In Guinea, I danced in the Ballet Monday to Friday, its like a job.
How many years did you dance in the Ballet?
15 or 16 years… but I really enjoyed that, it’s good to learn and it’s very important. Now I live in Australia and I’m happy to share my culture. It’s good for them to understand our culture.
When you do a dance are you telling a story of something in the culture.
Yes, some movements are telling a story, like when you’re washing the clothes and putting them up to dry. All the Rhythms in my country you play them for some reason. Everything has a meaning. You play for this reason.
To learn. It’s good to tell Australian people what this means and what that means.
In Conakry do they play rhythms outside their normal context?
Yes, but only in the Ballet, to learn. In Conakry, the same, but only the Ballet, you learn everything, and we play for the families when they have something special, like weddings or if someone wants to get married or if someone dies.
When you said about some movements telling a story, would you be able to demonstrate a step from a dance to show a step and what it means?
* Mory kindly obliges *
Where do you see yourself going with the dance in the future?
I’m going to keep going with the dancing until I get old, and then maybe then I’ll stop
Do you have an advice for people in Australia who want to learn to dance?
They should come to my dance class to learn :). It’s a little hard for some people if they’ve never danced before, but we can help them.
We have simple steps that will be easy for them.
I think it’s important for them to learn West African dancing because it’s good their bodies.
What if there are good dancers in your class?
You have to mix and add some harder steps so we can check the level of people in the diagonals.
So the way you’re teaching is it the same way you learnt?
No it’s different. In Africa, people don’t have time to teach you like that. You just look and you do it. Sometimes your friends can help you afterwards, but not normally you don’t have that kind of opportunity.
In Africa you can see a step and you can try to learn it. In our Ballet, we try to create new steps all the time. So we put together traditional steps from the village.
Lots of steps are original, but many are created on the way.
When you have a lot of experience you can come to dance class and just do your dance class, you don’t even have to think about what your will do. It is easy for your when you know what you are doing.
I really enjoy doing my dancing. I really enjoy performing and teaching.
How important is it to smile when you dance?
It’s very important. You can’t dance if you’re not happpy and if your not happy you can’t dance. It’s important to show poeple that you are happy and you can make people happy at the same time.
When you dance in the Ballet, how often do you do repetition?
Every day, Monday to Friday. Sometimes 5 / 6 hours a day.
Nobody compains about the drumming?
No, they don’t complain, not even at 2 in the morning.
When you do a wedding in the streeet, like a dundunba, you don’t even have to invite people. Just start and you’ll see how many people will be there….
Even 1 – 2 o’clock in the morning, they will come and they will be happy.
Mory and Aicha are African Dance teachers in Sydney.
They currently teach at noon every Saturday at Forest Lodge Public School near Glebe.
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Already a month has passed, this is February’s newsletter updating you with everything that’s happening on djembefola.com and the djembe world in general. You’re receiving this email because you subscribed via our web site, but you may unsubscribe at any time.
Mamady Keita djembe talk (part 2)
We are happy to announce the release of part 2 of a 2 hour djembe performance and discussion with Mamady Keita. Click here to check it out.
Fadouba Oulare has passed away
The djembe world is rocked and saddend by the loss of one of it’s great modern masters, Fadouba Oulare. Fadouba had been sick in hospital in Conakry for some time, and last week we got news that Fadouba has passed away.
No longer to be heard live, his family could be supported by buying his CD that was recorded in 2006 and released in 2008.
Rhythm of the month
December saw the start of a very exciting initiative that now takes place on the forum, the “Rhythm of the month“.
Last month we looked at Mendiani and there has been a huge amount of great discussion, notation, mp3 and video samples shared by the community.
This month we have been studying lamban (Jelifoli) and there has been a great exchange so far. Click here to take part