Mamady Keita in Atlanta – 3 Day Djembe Workshop TTM

Mamady Keita TTM


Wow, So I just got back from a weekend long workshop put on by TTM Winston Salem and held in Atlanta Georgia (technically Decatur, but who has heard of that place?)? I drummed a total of about 12 hours, learned a lot, met some neat people and reconnected with a few old friends.? Most importantly I found some new inspiration to play on my djembe again and got to shake hands with one of the most influential djembefola, Mamady Keita!

What a beautiful spirit this man has.? Kind and gentle, funny and focused.? A master at the djembe and a master at communication.? A wonderful workshop!? I will be looking out for Mamady’s next trip to the East Coast and encourage everyone who is interested in the djembe, or the West African culture to find his class.

My trip started at about 5:00pm Friday afternoon after just putting some advertising vinyl on the back of my jeep ( on the back bumper… I threw my back out a few weeks ago and was very uncomfortable with even a 30 minute ride, so I was worried about the 4 hour drive to Atlanta.? I ended up putting a rolled up shirt in the small of my back and made it down there ok, but with a few stops.

I had arranged to stay at a friends place at My Tessitura Studio -? in downtown Decatur.? She let me stay at her storefront which has a very warm and welcoming living quarters in the back.? My Tessitura follows the Musik Garten core of helping children develop through movement and rhythm, it’s very neat program that I encourage anyone with younger children to look into.? The store was in walking distance to anything I needed over the weekend and housed an extremely comfortable couch.? The workshop was only a 15 minute drive from here, and there was a subway on the way (I should really buy stock in that place as much as I eat there).? I got in Friday night and went to bed soon after… so excited for the drumming to come.

Saturdays first classes started promptly at 10:30.? I had got there about 30 min. early to set up my mic for recording.? Lots of other people had the same idea.? I’m guessing about 75-100 people showed up for the class, the space was just barely big enough for everyone.? When I saw Mamady Keita walk in I went up to him and introduced my self, I told him I felt like I knew him from watching so many of his DVD’s and all the videos of him online.? He’s got a ton of material out there… I’m sure he hears that a lot.? He was very kind and made me feel welcomed.? His English isn’t the best so he speaks French most of the time.? TTM Professor Bill Scheidt from Winston Salem translated for him, which was rather amusing at times.

Bill is a wonderful instructor as well and has studied close with Mamady and can be seen in many of Mamady Keita’s videos.? I’ve done a few semesters of classes with Bill in Winston Salem, but its a bit of a hike to keep up with on a regular basis.? If you are in his neck of the woods… please check out the TTM Winston Salem school.

So on to the class… it was awesome!? For 2.5+ hours we worked on a rhythm Mamady invented called Kudani.? The rhythm in itself was very simple, but we worked on one of his famous pyramids, which takes the underlying rhythmic essence of the rhythm, and adds breaks, solo phrases, spice, and life… and then keeps on going.? Its a way to work on technique, memorization, and skills.? For me its much more educational and I get a lot more out of it than just learning a rhythm, and playing it over and over.? It’s almost impossible to retain everything, so that’s why so many bring recorders (or phones).

We had a few hour break while a West African dance class taught by Sekou Soumah kept the space warm.

Next up was a solo technique class for a rhythm called Djabara.? This is a traditional rhythm, but the solo we learned was not the traditional, it was one of Mamady’s creations.? It was fast and funky and definitely not for beginners.? The kind of stuff a djembe player lives for!

My brain had all it could take. I went back to the solitude of the empty quiet room my friend had provided and decompressed.? After about an hour of nothing, my hands started tapping on everything, so I broke out my phone to listen back over everything and see how much I could remember.? At some point between then and the morning I fell asleep.

Mamady Keita demonstrating Djabara along with the dunun.


The first class Sunday morning was a dunun class.? Mamady talked about the importance of the dunun in this music, and stated, as I’ve heard him before, that the djembe should never be played without a dunun. (talking traditional rhythms here of course, not solos and modern playing styles)? He says that if you only play djembe, no one will know if you are playing …(named a bunch of rhythms with the same djembe pattern but that have distinct dunun patterns).? The dunun are the heart of the rhythm, the djembe accompany it.? He says the sangban is the most important of the dunun family because the kenkeni and dununba listen to it.? If you can only have one dunun to play with a djembe (and it doesn’t matter what size the drum is) it plays the part of the sangban.? Mamady Keita was sure to talk about the use of the term Djun-djun (pronounced june-june)? He says “What is this word?? It does not exist in my Country”.? Somehow the term came to the states and was accepted as being what you call the West African Bass Drums… dunun (pronounced more like dunu).? So with that cleared up we learned all the parts to his rhythm Kudani, the dununba, sangan, and kenkeni parts all had their challenges with a tricky bell and an off-beat beater.? It was fun.? We finished up about 20 min. early so Mamady covered Djabara super quick.

Out for lunch at a wonderful Indian restaurant near by.? I don’t eat Indian food often, but this was soooo good!? I’ll be looking for some local Indian restaurants in the near future.? We rushed back to class and got there just in time…

Mamady and Bolokada

To everyone’s surprise Bolokada Conde graced us for the class.? Bolokada is an excellent djembefola also from Guinea and a man I have taken quite a few djembe workshops with.? It was like djembe heaven!? Unfortunately they never really got into it and busted out some solos… but it was nice having Bolo there.? Remember that super long pyramid we did for Kudani?? Well.. He decided to continue onto that pyramid for another 2.5 hour class.? I think at some point we finished Kudani, and then started a different rhythm, but at that point my cup was over flowith.. :)? I was zoning out and just going through the motions.? I couldn’t take any more of it.? I’ll have to get some of the recordings off my phone and study them before it makes sense.

All in all I had a blast.? I learned a lot about my djembe, and reconnected with it.? I’m looking forward to the next time Mamady comes to the East Coast!

1 thoughts on “Mamady Keita in Atlanta – 3 Day Djembe Workshop TTM

  1. Joe Sulkowski says:

    It was a great weekend in Atlanta. I learned so much that weekend. We are working on Kudani for drum camp later this year. It should be really good.

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