This was the first time this camp was held, and the first time that Queensland has had a camp of such a high-calibre profile. Teachers:
- Lansana "Sana" Camara
- Mohamed "Bangouraké" Bangoura
- Sibo Bangoura
- Malin Sylla
- Aicha Keita
There were around 25 drummers and 15 dancers at the camp. Skill level of the drummers was quite varied, from almost complete beginner to fairly advanced. But most of the people had at least some experience, so I'd say that the standard was slightly higher than at most other camps I've been to in Australia. The dancers were another matter: many of them are highly accomplished dancers, so Aicha could really let it rip…
The drum teachers took turns, each taking one day of teaching. We learned Kassa Dibon (Sana), Dibon (Malin), Mendiani Koura (Sibo), and Kounkoura (Mohamed).
Mendiani Koura is a modern version of Mendiani. The djembe accompaniments are the same as for Mendiani, but the dunduns are quite different. The sangban still contains the classic Mendiani pattern with the four open strokes, with the third open stroke marking the "one" and the other three off-beat. But it splits the pattern into a double-length cycle, so the classic Mendiani pattern happens only every second cycle. The other half is taken up by a bunch of off-beat mutes. The dundunba accompaniment is very reminiscent of dundunba rhythms. Essentially nothing is on the beat Not surprisingly, students struggled most with Mendiani—it's not a rhythm that's easy to feel…
Kounkoura is one of Mohamed's compositions, a 6/8 that's quite uplifting and playful. Kounkoura is the name of one of four bridges near Mohamed's village. You have to cross that bridge to get from Mohamed's to Malin's place.
The dancers learned Yankadi, Keyim Ba (a dundunba that can also be found on Sibo's CD), Kassa Dibon, and Soboninkun. Because the skill level of the dancers was really up there, Aicha put together lots of challenging moves and an awesome choreography. It really was fun drumming for the dancers—eye-candy every step along the way
Sunday evening, the five teachers put up a concert. Sibo explained that his was quite special for them because the three brothers (Sana, Sibo, and Bangouraké) don't get to play together all that often. They all have busy schedules, and Sana lives in Brisbane, whereas Sibo and Bangouraké live in Sydney. So they really let it rip. People normally would pay big dollars to get to hear a world-class performance like this—we got it thrown in for free as part of the camp! The concert was open to the general public too, with tickets sold separately, so we had a full house. Rhythms included Balakulania, Tiriba, Zaouli, Keyim Ba, and one rhythm that I didn't recognize.
I uploaded a short sound clip of the Zaouli break in the media section.
Ruthie did the catering the for everyone, and the food she put up was truly spectacular. (I find myself going to quite a few of these camps just for the food—the drumming is sort of an extra bonus )
So, overall, this was an excellent camp: great teachers, great dancers, beautiful location, good company, outstanding food, and everything well organized. It looks like this camp will happen again next year. If you can, come along to the next one—this is shaping up to be one of the best workshops in Australia each year!