dance circle

January 10, 2010

I played for a West-African dance class today and it felt good to drum again and to spend time with a lot of beautiful people. A couple of years back, I took a few dance classes to see if it would help my drumming – not sure about the drumming, but it did help me get over a little bit of the fear of dancing and it also built on the respect that I have for dancers. African dance is very physical in its movements and it demands that you are in good physical condition, but dancing when you are not confident demands that you are in good mental shape as well.

At the end of dance classes, a student is encouraged to enter the circle, formed by other dancers and the drummers, and to perform a short dance solo. This circle format resembles the way that most dancing occurs in Guinea, Mali and other countries of West-Africa. Today, I watched someone with a great fear of dancing in public (never mind the pressure of the circle), overcome that fear with beauty and humbleness. It was wonderful to watch.



January 9, 2010

I played an absolutely beautiful rhythm called Kakilambe today. It’s from the Baga people from West Africa and it is played to invoke a powerful forest god that tells your fortune for the year. The rhythm was music today, and it affected me and moved me so much that I actually was able to dance and play for the first time ever.

Hopefully today is reflective of my fortunes for the year – to hear and make music so sweet that it moves you – spiritually, emotionally and physically.

harambee dance company

August 5, 2009

I had a chance to participate in a bantaba for Harambee Dance Company from New York recently. The dundunfola blew me away with the Dundunbas that he played ballet style – Bolokonondo, Dununbe, Kurabadon, Konowulen. It was quite spectacular … and the dancers just couldn’t stop – their energy was inspiring.

The drum is calling louder and louder these days. Gonna have to answer that bell soon.

I recently watched the Guinea Masters at Habesha Lounge (which is a terrible venue for such impressive talent). The highlight for me was Takosaba and Bolokonondo – and Simbo danced and danced and danced.

These rhythms are very important to the Mande people from West Africa. Traditionally Dundunbas were played for the rites of passage of young men who proved their strength and bravery by standing up to increasingly harder blows from whips. The rite is now, for the most part, a series of prescribed movements and dance to mind-bending off-time rhythm. Truly beautiful to watch and hear.

jembe masters

July 13, 2009

If you were at Afrofest on Sunday, you probably heard Mohamed Diaby’s Manding Foli Kan Don on the small stage (!) on the north-west part of the park. They were so hot there was fire on the stage. Mohamed had a few guests with him from Guinea – Cobra, Mito, Simbo and Soumah. Even Amadou and Amara joined in for a rhythm.

These drummers are in Toronto this week for a Guinea-style performance on Friday July 17. Want to hear what the jembe is supposed to sound like? Catch ’em if you can.


June 3, 2009

It’s the time of year when you hear drums from all over the world. Check out rhythms starting this Thursday when the Muhtadi International Drum Festival kicks off at the Wychwood Barns on Christie Street.

The festival continues outside on Saturday and Sunday at Queen’s Park (north side of Wellesley). Hope it’s good weather. Can’t wait to see Amara Kante and Steafan Hannigan.

Hear and see authentic West-African drum music – a rarity in Toronto for most of the year. The show is on February 27, 10 pm at Teranga Restaurant (159 Augusta Ave). It’s part of Toronto’s Black History Month celebrations. I’ve heard these guys play – you haven’t heard the jembe until you hear African professionals play.