Artist Profiles: Mamady Keita

Mamady Keita

Born in 1950, master drummer Mamady Keita comes from eastern Guinea, once a part of the vast Manding Empire. In pre-colonial times it also included large portions of what are now Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Ghana and Burkina Faso.

At his birth, a soothsayer predicted Keita would become known all over Africa and even in “countries of which we’ve never heard spoken!” By age fourteen he was a professional, traveling around Guinea learning new rhythms. And as foretold, in 1965 a teenage Keita began touring the globe with the Guinean Ballet.

In 1988, Keita settled in Belgium and founded his own group, Sewa Kan, which means “sound of joy”. With half a dozen players and dancers, the group has toured extensively, including four trips to Japan.

Preoccupied with preserving a musical tradition going back to the 13 century, Keita founded a school, Tam Tam Mandingue. “It’s important to place the musical tradition in context,” he explained with his habitual broad grin. Here, avid students learn to play the jembe, a large, conical, open-ended drum with a head of stretched goat or antelope skin. And with the technique, Keita transmits the joy and warmth within the music.

Mamady has been the focus of four documentary films and has recorded several albums on the Fonti Musicali label. Mamady has also written an instructional book, Mamady Keita: A Life for the Djembe–Traditional Rhythms of the Malinke (Music CD included) published by Arun and translated by Uschi Billmeier. The book transcribes over 60 Mandingo rhythms and includes detailed histories. Lastly, Mamady has recorded three instructional videos (Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels) available in French with English subtitles.

Today Mamady travels around the world teaching and performing; every winter he hosts two 3-week workshops at his private compound in Guinea. In August through September he tours Japan and the United States teaching traditional Mandingo percussion. Beginning in the Fall of 2004 Mamady Keita will be based in San Diego four months out of each year.

Discography:

Wassolon (Fonti Musicali, 1989)
Nankama (Fonti Musicali, 1992)
Mögöbalu (Fonti Musicali, 1995)
Hamanah, with Famoudou Konaté (Fonti Musicali, 1996)
Afö (Fonti Musicali, 1998)
Balandugu Kan (Fonti Musicali, 2000)
Mamady Lèè (Fonti Musicali, 2001)
Agiatè (Fonti Musicali, 2002)
Djembe Master, (Nocturne, 2004)
Sila Laka (Fonti Musicali, 2004)
Live at Couleur Cafe (Fenix Music & ZigZag World, 2005)
Mandeng Djara (Fonti Musicali, 2007)
Hakili (ZigZag World & Cristal Records, 2010)

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Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several TV specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World.

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