Djembe and Mande Music/Review Section 
(last revision 10/18/99)
WORKSHOP: MAMADY KEITA AND MOUSTAPHA BANGOURA
PLACE: STATE COLLEGE, PA USA
DATE: SEPTEMBER 24, 1999

As part of their 1999 US tour, Mamady Keita and Moustapha Bangoura bought the djembe and dance traditions of Guinea to Penn State University at State College on September 24, 1999. The present review will focus on Mamady Keita’s drum workshops because that is the area that I feel more qualified to discuss at length. (Although I was unable to attend Moustapha Bangoura’s dance class this year, I did observe his class when he and Mamady Keita visited Penn State last year. He impressed me as an excellent teacher and he possesses without question a deep familiarity with Guinean dance and music.) Mamady Keita gave both a Beginner class and an Intermediate class. Classes were $10 for Penn State students, faculty and staff and, for all others, each drum class was$20 and dance class $15. Joining Mamady Keita and Moustapha Bangoura were by William Bowman,. Mahiri Edwards Keita, Monette Marino, S'Ank Rasa and Reggi Sargeant who added skilled and soulful dunun accompaniment. Special thanks go out to Dan Treviño and his colleagues at Penn State who organized the workshop.

Mamady Keita began the Beginner’s class with an extended introduction of the place of the djembe within Maninka culture. He first indicated that his mission was to teach the traditional rhythms of his homeland and made a clear distinction between the traditional forms and the versions of these rhythms that were developed in the context of West African ballet companies. He then discussed the cultural unity of Manden which includes regions of Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and The Gambia and Mali. He also stressed that everyone who studies the djembe should also learn about the cultures where the djembe originated and the social contexts in which given rhythms are played in those cultures Finally, he sought to dispell a common misconception by indicating that the bass drums that acompany djembes are collectively called “dununs” and not “djun djuns” and identified the three dununs (kenkeni, sangban, dundunba) that figure in Maninka drum ensembles. Although many of the details were familiar to me, Mamady’s presentation give me a much clearer idea of how the different parts of the picture fit together and I believe that all the participants came away with a deeper understanding of the cultural context and significance of djembe music.

The remainder of the Beginner class was devoted to Kuku and to the basic sounds on the djembe. Mamady begin his presentation of Kuku by discussing the origin of this rhythm , the context in which it is played and the regions where it is played. Then, as with all the rhythms presented at this workshop, Mamady proceeded by demonstrating, both separately and together, the sangban, kenkeni and dundunba parts for the rhythm. Finally, while the dunun section was playing the rhythm, Mamady introduced two djembe parts. The presentation of the rhythm was thus quite systematic with a particular emphasis on on its cultural background and how the djembe parts (which we students were learning) fit within the rhythmic foundation set up by the dununs. After the group rehearsed both djembe patterns for several minutes (with the special privilege of hearing Mamady solo over the accompaniment parts that we were playing), Mamady spent  some time teaching us proper tone/slap/bass production and gave students a bit of individual attention. There were a few total beginners in the class, and Mamady was as patient with them as any teacher I have seen.

In the Intermediate class, Mamady covered many of the points that he made in the beginner class. Once again he began by stating that he was teaching traditional rhythms. He then proceeded to teach Djagbe, Kassa (and a third rhythm the name of which I don’t recall.) As he did with Kuku, Mamady first gave the cultural background of each rhythm, then presented the dunun and djembe parts. In both classes, Mamady stressed the importance of proper handing. To paraphase a bit, he said, “the rhythm is traditional, the handing must be traditional as well.” He illustrated another important point when he observed that the same djembe pattern was used for Djagbe, Kassa, and Soli Lent, namely that the dunun arrangement is the distinctive feature of Maninka rhymns. Mamady also emphasized the need for clear and consist sound production. He added that he practices technique everyday. The conclusion that participants drew was that if someone as accomplished as Mamady dedicates significant time to practicing in order to achieve clearly articulated sounds, we should also make it part of our daily routine.

As someone who has been involved in teaching for the better part of my adult life, I have great admiration for Mamady’s pedagogical qualities. His skill as a musician and his knowledge of the djembe tradition are, of course, unsurpassed, but Mamady also possess a rare ability to communicate that knowledge. He had several key ideas to impart to the participants and he made it clear why these ideas were important. His manner is relaxed and puts students at ease and often uses humor to make his points. At the same time Mamady is a demanding teacher and a stickler for details. And what ears and powers of observation? I recall a contributor to the old djembe list commenting that, in a room of 20 drummers, Mamady could pick out a single person putting a slap in the place of a tone (or vice-versa). At State College I saw him do that and also pick out people who were playing the correct tones but using incorrect handing. Finally, Mamady brings a passion to his teaching and that passion inspires his students to both become better drummers and more knowledgable about the culture that informs the djembe tradition.

Mamady closed the workshop by saying that he hoped to see all of us the following year. In the meantime, he recommended that we study with one of the djembe professors that he has trained. Thus, I would like conclude this review by listing the contact information of these professors, each of the whom has been chosen and accredited by Mamady Keita to pass on the Maninka djembe/dunun tradition.
Tom Daddesio 

ACCREDITED TAM TAM MANDINGUE PROFESSORS

Belgium
Muriel FINET
Avenue Mozart 60
B-1180 Bruxelles
Téléphone / fax : +32 2 344.09.50

Denis ORLOFF
Chaussée de Wavre 1784
B-1160 BRUXELLES

Marc MAÏKISSA
Rue Wayenberg 60
B-1050 Bruxelles
+32 2 648 83 14

Sidiki CAMARA
Heiligenborre 164
B-1170 BRUXELLES
+32 2 660 78 68

France
Elion GILBERT
Rue de la Chapelle 54
57000 METZ
+33 387 50 49 19

Jean-Marie MALLET
Le Bourg
14220 SAINT-OMER
+33 231 69 00 89 (tél/fax)

Alain BRUNACHE
Le Bouscaut, 7
33700 LUGASSON BORDEAUX
+33 557 84 03 50

BILL WILLIAM KLEINSMITH
Rue Louis Mallet, 164 ter
18000 BOURGES
+33 248 50 40 46

Michel WEELEN (Tam Tam Mandingue France)
Rue Victor Massé, 15
75009 PARIS
+33 1 48 74 69 99

HUGUES LEBRUN
120 Avenue Gambetta
93170 BAGNOLET-FRANCE
+33 1 43 60 68 70

Thierry DE GUITTARD
Les Côtes
63440 SAINT-REMY DE BLOT
+33 473 97 50 33

Eric GENEVOIS
Rue Janin 14
92600 ASNIERES
+331 47 33 53 56

Switzerland
Yves BERTHOLET
Rue du Pont Neuf, 9
1227 GENEVE
+41 22 342 66 70

Cédric ASSEO
Poste restante
1240 PUPLINGE
+41 22 348 28 87 (tel/fax)

Germany
TAMTAM MANDINGUE GERMANY

Uschi BILLMEIER
Renatastrasse 37
80634 MUNCHEN
+49 89 13 47 81

AFROTON Michel ROEDGER
RuesselsHeimstrasse 22
06326 FRANKFURT
+49 69 97 30 31 /0 Tel
+49 69 97 30 31 /21 Fax

Chris MENTGEN
Morgenstrasse 51
76137 KARLSRUHE
+49 721 37 85 03

Herman KATHAN
Gaxmardterstrasse 29
73495 STODLEN-DAMBACH
+49 79 64 30 00 34

USA
Mahiri Edouards KEITA
140 Michigan Avenue NE apt #T12
WASHINGTON DC
VIRGINIA 20017
+1 202 518 83 46

DIALLO Sumbry
922 Sheridan Street NW
WASHINGTON DC 20011

Monette MARINO
238 W. Lewis Street
SAN DIEGO
CA 92103
+1 619 294 70 36

Fred SIMPSON & Mabiba BAEGNE
223 South Broneiforte
SANTA CRUZ, CA 95062
+1 408 459 07 85

Michaël MOON BEAR
2 North Howard
Spokane,Washington 99201
+1 509 624 75 73

Japan
Youl Lamnine DIABATE
C° Mina OKAMURA
2 12 4 Azabujuban, Tokyo 106
+81 3 34 54 84 63

 

[ToC] [ToP]