Mamady "Wadaba" Kourouma (left) and 2021/2023 apprentice Donte McDaniel (right) performing at the ACTA 2021 Apprenticeship Program showcase. Photo: Sharessa McDaniel.

Mamady “Wadaba” Kourouma

West African Traditional Djembe Drumming

West African Traditional Djembe Drumming

Every rhythm has a celebration, dance, spiritual meaning, and story behind it. I am the ‘Great Panther,’ and I play because my drum brings power on behalf of my people. I want to share this tradition with people, because it makes me feel at home and preserves my family’s history.” – Wadaba Kourouma

Wadaba Kourouma playing the djembe drum in traditional attire. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Mamady “Wadaba” Kourouma was born and raised in the village of Oroko near Kouroussa, Guinea, West Africa. From a young age he was able to master his people’s traditional drum music and dances as passed down from his ancestors, earning the nickname “Wadaba” (Great Panther) because of his powerful sound on the djembe drum. By the time he was ten, he was taking turns as a soloist. By his teenage years, he had learned all of their traditional rhythms and become one of the lead soloists of his village. Spending part of his time in Guinea, and part at his home in Central California, Kourouma continues to work with master drummers from his village; teach classes and clinics; build drums; and perform with his ensemble Annye Ben, locally and throughout the world.





Apprenticeship Program


West African Traditional Djembe Drumming
with apprentice Donte McDaniel

Donte McDaniel performing at a school assembly. Photo: Clovis Unified School District.

Building upon their previous apprenticeship together, Donte will learn the Guinean style of drumming, including rhythms, accompaniments, drum breaks, dunun ensemble parts, bell parts, and advanced solos. Kourouma will also teach Donte new, familial rhythms: their histories, purposes, and how to preserve their authenticity.



West African Traditional Djembe Drumming
with apprentice Donte McDaniel

Kourouma will help Donte McDaniel cultivate a stronger foundation in West African traditional djembe drumming. The art form is a part of the larger Mandeng (Mandingue) culture and dates back over four hundred years. Traditional djembe drumming was originally used during village ceremonies, farming, and dancing. Donte’s goals are to refine his technique, including the slap, tone, and bass, and to learn both the proper feel and emotion involved in playing the djembe. Across fourteen one-on-one sessions, Kourouma will instruct Donte on the following foundational rhythms: Kassa, Konden, Sofa, Soli, Fakoli, and Dunun Gbe.



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