M’Bemba Bangoura has traveled the world as a performer and teacher of the Djembe drum, and he is revered for his high level of mastery. As a native of Guinea, West Africa, M’Bemba began playing the djembe at the young age of seven. By the age of twenty-one, he was acclaimed as a master drummer and was invited to play for Ballet Djoliba, the national company of Guinea. Since moving to the US in 1992, M’Bemba is an integral part of the entire drum and dance scene nationwide. He has taught hundreds of students, many of who are now teachers themselves. In addition, he has personally created choreography and developed repertoire for dozens of dance companies worldwide.
Working throughout the United States, Mexico, Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean, his style is infectious. He has recorded 3 solo albums, and a 2 volumes of DVDS called Wamato: Everybody Look! M’bemba has been a guest artist on dozens of other recording projects, videos, and films. Dedicated to teaching drumming, dancing, and his culture, M’Bemba is one of the world's most prominent ambassadors for Guinean drum and dance.
Youssouf Koumbassa is a former artist of Ballet Djoliba, the National Ballet of Guinea. Born and raised in Guinea, West Africa, Youssouf began dancing at the age of six. Youssouf's father is from the Landuma people and his mother from the Baga/Susu people.
Youssouf has traveled extensively throughout West Africa, Japan, Bangladesh, India, Holland, Hungary, Russia, Korea, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United States. Since moving to the United States twenty-two years ago, Youssouf has established himself as the pre-eminent teacher of dance from Guinea. He now travels widely throughout the world as a much sought after master teacher at dance conferences, workshops, camps and schools. His classes are attended by a large and loyal following who are appreciative of his mercurial energy and grace.
Youssouf is meticulous in acknowledging the source of this material and insists on a high level of understanding and respect for the form among his students. He travels to Guinea regularly, taking students on dance trips and returns to the United States with the latest developments in contemporary dance so that his teaching is always a mixture of traditional work and the dances that infuse popular culture. He is easy to learn from and suitable for all levels: beginner, intermediate, and advanced dancers.
Marie Basse-Wiles was born in Dakar, Senegal, West Africa. The granddaughter of Bambara singer and dancer Maimouna Keita, Marie began her professional career at the age of 9. She began teaching at the age of 12 as a member of the Ballet National of Senegal. Her professional accomplishments include resident work with Kinne N'Diaye Rose, daughter of master drummer Dou Dou N'Diaye Rose, and Papa Dougoufana Traore, as well as renowned choreographers Mamadou N'Diaye, Demba Diallo, Oumy Sene and Raymon Sylla.
Her international touring experience includes performances with the Ballet National of Senegal and Koumpo Dance Company, under the direction of Ibrahima Camara. She has won numerous awards for her commitment to the community and accomplishments in dance. She has created numerous ballets throughout her career as well as a piece for The Center For Traditional Music and Dance "Bedenya 97" Festival that is archived at the New York Public Library's Performing Arts Library.
Mangue Sylla was born in Conakry, Guinea in and started playing music at the age of 7. Although he is Susu, he learned the traditional Malinke music on the Sangban from a group of master Malinke drummers. This gave him a great foundation in the music and the ability to progress quickly.
In 1993 Mangue joined the well known ballet troupe Les Merveilles de Guinee. This provided him the opportunity to travel throughout Africa and study under the leadership of the late great Kemoko Sano. In 1998 Mangue moved to the US and keeps a busy schedule, performing and teaching at most major dance conferences nationwide. He also works with numerous organizations including, but not limited to: Alvin Ailey Arts in Ed, Wula Drum and Dance NYC, Drum Cafe, Marylin's Bamdulaye, and Nandy's Sankofa Kuumba Cac (summer program for children).
Born in Tivaoune, Senegal, master drummer Mar Gueye is the son of Bouboucar Gueye and N'dambe Thioune, both of respected musical families known as N'guewel to the Wolof people. At the age of eight, Mar went to Senegal's capital, Dakar, to study and work with his uncle, renowned sabar drummer Dou Dou n'diaye Rose. By 1973, Mar had entered the Senegalese National School of the Arts and soon found himself playing with the Ballet National de Senegal. In 1976 he joined the Ballet d'Afrique Noire. By the time Mar had become a master of many drumming styles from Senegal and other parts of West Africa, including Sabar and the Djembe complex of dances.
From 1980 through 1986 Mar toured and performed at international events such as the Dijon Festival, and the Festival de Nance as well as the Vancouver Percussion Festival. Following this period he moved to New York and founded the N'guewel School of the Arts which helped to galvanize the network of Senegalese communities between New York and Washington D.C.
Amoung the constellation of internationally renowned Senegalese artists, Mar has worked witth Youssou N'Dour, Tambour Brombg and Roots Talibe. In addition to his work within the Senegalese musical community, he has worked with a vast range of prominent musicians from diverse musical arenas including the Rolling Stones, Ziggy Marley, and jazz saxophonist David Sanborn. Since 1992 he has regularly recorded and toured with the World Saxophone Quartet. Also Mar frequently reunites with the World Saxophone Quartet and reunites with his uncle Dou Dou N'daiye Rose for tours in Asia, Europe, and North America.
born in 1965 in Conakry, Guinea as a Griot (family lineage who keep the history and traditions of the people). He is the grandson of El Hadj Djelli Sory Kouyate, a living legend of the Mandeng Balafon. In Conakry he co-founded "Les Heritiers" with Sekouba Kandia Kouyate and recorded the albums "Kandia Dinke" and "Nyoumekela" with this group. Famoro was the understudy of his grandfather in the Ensemble Instrumental National (National ensemble of Guinea) and routinely performed for the President and visiting foreign dignitaries. He was a member of the famous Mory Kante's orchestra for the performances and recording of the "Traditional Symphonie."
Famaro has made a strong name for himself and moved to the United States in the late nineties. He is in high demand as a free-lance musician, playing everywhere from nightclubs to Carnegie Hall.
Valerie Naranjo was the 5th woman to be inducted into the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame. She has been the percussionist in NBC's SNL Band for 27 years, and has drummed with such artists as Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Airto Moreira, Zakir Hussein, David Byrne, Philip Glass, and Paul Winter. In 1988 the ban on women players was lifted, so Valerie participated in the Ghanaian Kobine Festival, for which she won a first prize in 1996. In 1994 she performed and taught with djembe icon Adama Drame. Valerie was Drum! Magazine's "World Music Percussionist of the Year" 2005 & 2008, and "Mallet Player of the Year" 2012. Performance venues include Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall; The Kennedy Center, The White House; London's Royal Festival Hall; FESTIBO (Cote D’Ivoire), Tierra Pura Festival (Ghana), Young Indians (Delhi); Arts Alive (South Africa); and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Valerie teaches West African drumming, percussion and dance, at NYU, and is a member of NYU’s Global Institute of Advanced Studies. She published, with master gyil artist Kakraba Lobi "West African Music for the Marimba Soloist”, "Joro" for gyil and orchestra, and "Tierra Pura", for Gyil and wind ensemble. Valerie works in the spirit of the arts as a unifying force for the world’s people.
Born in Conakry, Guinea, Abdoulaye Toure began drumming at 10 years old. In time he became well versed in the traditional music of his country, excelling in playing djembe, kenkeni, sangban and dundun drums and krin. He has performed with Guinea’s highly acclaimed National Ballet Djoliba and with Papa Kouyate’s Les Petits Sorcier, traveling throughout West Africa including Gambia and Mali. Abdoulaye has apprenticed with some of the most respected teachers in Guinea: Papa Kouyate, and Sekou Conde. In 2012 he recorded with Solo Keita playing dundun, djembe and krin, and in 2013 he recorded with Mohamed Diarra playing dundun drums.
Currently based in New York, Abdoulaye teaches a weekly drum class and is in growing demand as a working musician. He has worked with several well known and respected Guinean artists and teachers such as Youssouf Koumbassa, M’Bemba Bangoura, and Mouminatou Camara.
Fara began his studies in the percussion arts in 1993, under the tutelage of the Bayo family from Kankan, who were at that time residing at the Camp Camayenne military base in Conakry, Guinea. While at Camp Camayenne, he also studied with Moussa Kourouma and Billy Nankouma. He soon began performing, first with the Sanké Jeanne Makôles ballets in 1999. In 2000, Fara and members of the Sanké Jeanne Makôles ballet created a new group called the Grand Sorcier Papa Kouyaté.
In 2003, Fara was honored to join the National Ensemble of Percussions de Guinée (after an introduction by Billy Nankouma), and he traveled with Percussions de Guinée to Egypt in 2015 and 2019 to perform. In 2010, Fara created his own group, Fara Percussions. His hope was to form a troupe featuring the finest music and dance talents in all of Guinée-Conakry.
p>Throughout his career, Fara has worked with and learned from renowned West African percussionist, such as Fadouba Oularé, Coungbana (master of Sangban), Lancei Konté (master of Doundoun), Ali Sylla (master of Djembe, and Lamine Lopez (master of Djembe).
Ismael Kouyate is a Guinean dancer and singer. He is the son of Mama Diabatè and Papa Kouyatè.
He was born in Guinea, West Africa to a long line of griots, the oral historians that preserve the history and culture of Africa through songs, stories, music and dance. He began dancing professionally at the age of 12, when he was recruited by Les Percussions de Guinee' to perform in their international tour, which included Europe and Asia. Upon his return in 2004, he joined Ballets Africains, the National Dance Company of Guinea, for their 50th Anniversary Tour of the US, Jubilee! From his performances on this tour, he was contracted by the team of Fela! to serve as a master choreographer for the production. His talent and skills landed him a principle role in the play.
Ismael toured with Fela! from its humble off-Broadway roots in 2008 through its final international tours. He is the subject of a CNN special on Africa in the US where his class of more than 100 people learnt and modelled his dance movements.
He has also worked with Beyoncé, adding his vocals to her hit Grown Woman, the single that is featured on her Pepsi commercial.
Ismael can be seen as an individual performer or with his band, Waraba, or his West African dance company, African Soul International. He is currently completing his own production about the life of King Sundiata Keita, the ruler of the Malian Empire. He is also working on his upcoming album.
Andoche Loubaki began his dance career in Brazzaville, Congo in 1998, with the choreographer Louis Causete. Two years later he joined the percussion group Toubillon as a drummer and learned to play the Ngoma. In 2013 Andoche started working with ballet Ngoma Za Kongo and went on tour in Gabon, Senegal, Libya and Malta. Ballet Ngoma Za Kongo, meaning "Drums of the Kongo," was invited by Africa Mondo Productions to tour the United States to bring different traditions and sounds from different regions of Congo. Andoche continues to share music and dance of the Congo with his performing company called Mfouambila which means groove.
For more than 20 years, he has been giving African percussion training. He has developed an excellent work methodology, an intuitive pedagogy that stands out for his excellent sense of group management.
Jose "Apache" Rivera has played folkloric music throughout the five boroughs of New York's cultural melting pot since the age of eleven. He has been quoted, "I will spend the rest of my life searching for peace, love, and harmony. I play and make percussion Instruments as a form of prayer and meditation. Each one of my Instruments are embraced with prayers and gratitude." This statement rings true and clear in his music and his teaching.
Ismael Bangoura, born in Guinea West Africa in 1975, has been musical director and lead drummer for Jeh Kulu Dance and Drum Theater since 1997. He has been studying music since age nine, and primarily plays the djembe and krin. His formal training began under the teaching of Master Musician Mohamed Camera, a close personal friend who is currently living in New York. He continued to develop as a musician playing informally and professionally with mentor and teacher Ibrahima “Boca” Camera. Later he worked with Master Percussionist Koungbanan Conde and Lance Kante. At a young age, Ismael landed a position with Percussions de Guinee, touring extensively in Guinea and in Europe.
Since coming to the U.S. Ismael has worked with some of the worlds most outstanding musicians both as a performer and a recording artist. These include Ron Brown, Sekouba Camera, Kemoko Sano, Youssouf Koumbassa and Vermont’s own Trey Anastasio of the band Phish. He regularly travels withing the U.S. and internationally. He has been to Sweden to work with Matimbo and to new Orleans to play with Mariama Curry’s Dance Company. He regularly attends conferences in New York, Florida, and Colorado to teach and perform. Ismael is also a recording artist and has played on CDs with many West African Artists.
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