Blog - Here are some links to recommended websites.
Last Updated: 22 Sep 2010
Here are some links to some useful websites for gathering new information on Jembe and some of my favorite artists.
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.
Famoudou was born in 1940 near Sangbaralla, a village in the Hamana region of Upper Guinea, the Malinké heartland and the birthplace of the Dunun family of rhythms. A percussive prodigy, he was drumming in community festivals at the age of eight and was soon in demand as a djembefola across the region. From 1959 to 1985, Famoudou was the Lead Djembe Soloist for Les Ballets Africains de la République de Guinée, touring the world and performing with astounding virtuosity. During this time, Famoudou himself created many of the musical arrangements now common in West African performance groups worldwide.
Since 1986, he has taught and performed annually throughout Europe, Japan, Israel, North America and West Africa, instilling a generation of non-African drummers with an extraordinary level of training. In 1996 he received an honorary professorship in Didactics of African Musical Practice from University of the Arts Berlin. He has produced 7 CDs, including his latest Hamana Namun.
Mamady Keïta was born in 1950 in Balandugu (Guinea), a village of the Wassolon region, near the Fé River. His father was a master hunter and a fida tigi (master of the plants, that is to say a healer). His mother, wishing to know the destiny of the child that she was carrying, consulted a soothsayer who announced that it would be her last son: “The child must be left to amuse himself because it is there that he will make is name.”
From when he was old enough to crawl, Mamady descended on all the pots and pans in order to turn them over and beat on them. “My son will therefore be a djembefola;” his mother said to herself and she had an instrument constructed to his size. Very quickly he surprised everyone by his natural gifts. No one could believe their ears and they would ask themselves how a small boy could draw such a sound from a drum. Mamady “Nankama” (Mamady-who-was-born-for-that), and “Balandugudjina” (the devil of Balandugu) are his two nicknames.
He owed his initiation into the history of the Mandeng and its music to Karinkadjan Kondé, an old djembefola (djembe player) of his village; in Malinke they say “Words come forth from an old mouth to enter a new ear.” Curious about everything, he would not rest until he knew, firstly all the rhythms of the Wassolon, then of the Mandeng and those of the neighboring ethnic groups.
The new president of Guinea, Sekou Touré, wished to spotlight Guinean Culture through music and dance and therefore devised a system of local, regional and national competitions that would attract the best artists of the land into the National Ballets of Guinea. Out of over 500 competitors, Mamady Keïta, at the age of fourteen, was selected as one of 5 percussionists, only three of which were djembe players. There were forty-five artists that comprised the National Ballet Djoliba and Mamady was the youngest member. For over twenty years, Mamady travelled around the world with Djoliba, only resting between tours for short periods in his native country.
He was named lead djembe soloist only one year after Djoliba was formed, he was just 15 years old. At seventeen, the young drummer was cast in a Harry Belafonte film titled Africa Dance. After 15 years in the Ballet Djoliba, when he was 29, Mamady became the artistic director and fulfilled this function until 1986 when he left the ballet for good; this was the first time that a drummer was given the position of artistic director.
This is a great website for connecting with other people interested in Jembe and west African Drumming, its got good forums and interviews and lots and lots of information..
Sixteen years ago, the first Big Bang Festival was organised in Dublin by CityArts and Wet Paint Arts, changing the landscape of drumming in Ireland forever. Big Bang, now an independent festival, continues to celebrate a broad spectrum of styles of drumming, but also rhythm as it affects other art forms such as dance, voice and visual art.
The Big Bang has presented a diverse range of international performers: Trilok Gurtu (India), Mamady Keita (Guinea),Johnny Kalsi (UK), Sergio Krakowski (Brazil), HeartBeat Percussion (Singapore), Monobloco (Brazil), Seckou Keita(Senegal), Andrea Piccioni (Italy) and Abdullah Chhadeh (Syria).