Sekou Balandougou: Djembe Fola

Born in the village of Balandougou in Guinea, West Africa, Sekou Keita has been steeped in the Manding musical tradition since childhood. During a visit by master drummer, Mamady Keita, Sekou was invited to join Mamady’s school in Conakry , the capital, where musicians from around the world have learned the tradition of djembe percussion. Sekou, then a young boy, joined Mammady’s school and became one of the central performers there and was soon bestowed with the name of Mammady and Sekou’s home village, Balandougou.

It is in the suburb of Conakry at Mammady’s school where Sekou, along with other musicians formed the performance group, Balandougou Kan, and began to perform regularly for all types of events in the surrounding area. Their talent and skill have inspired visiting musicians from around the world, including myself who had the pleasure of living, studying and recording with the group for two months a short while ago.

Some basic information about djembe percussion: the composition of a traditional performance group can vary between 3-15 people but is best heard with at least 7. The reason for this is that each drum has its part in the rhythmic pattern and each drum is tuned to carry a different pitch within the ensemble. The central drum which leads the breaks, solos and accompaniment of each rhythm is the djembe, and tradition calls for three djembes tuned as a bass, mid and high drum to be used.

In addition, there is a set of dundun or bass-drums that create the foundation to the rhythm structure that are similarly tuned as bass, mid and high but whose tones are far lower than the djembes. In addition there is usually at least one balafon or kora player for melodic accompaniment and interludes, as well as a singer. Together these instruments form a fabric of interlocking rhythm and melody whose high energy is irresistible and leaves one feeling that they have tapped into the heart of not just the percussive traditions of Africa, but many other African diaspora traditions. Alongside weaving a tapestry of sound djembe music presents the listener with a dynamic performance filled with jaw-dropping solos, fast-paced crescendos and tight breaks which leaves the audience on their feet and wanting more.

Sekou, will be visiting Beirut for the month of April to lead classes and workshops with a local djembe performance group, Walkabout Drum Circle. The Walkabout group has become a staple name for live percussion events in Beirut and continue to please crowds with multiple monthly shows in and around the Hamra/Achrafieh districts. The group will be both studying and performing with Sekou during his stay and have already begun preparing for his arrival.

Sekou is not only a talented percussionist, charismatic singer and skilled musical director but he is also a remarkable individual. His love of the folk traditions of the Manding people is evident by the joy he shows in performing and teaching the music. It is a pleasure to hear and be a part of the music he shares.

Due to technical difficulties we are unable to post music and videos of Sekou’s performances at this time, however promo dvds are available upon request. For more information or for bookings please contact: – 71376475

Thank you.


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