The odyssey of a djembefola

Master drummer Bolokada Condé.

Master drummer Bolokada Condé will be hosting a series of djembe workshops at the Britannia Community Centre and CBC’s Studio 700 from September 6–9.

In addition to being one of the most highly-regarded djembefolas, Condé has also been celebrated as one of the most important teachers of West African drumming, having taught at universities throughout the United States, as well as having led workshops for other djembe teachers.

Growth and passion

Bolokada Condé is one of the world’s most celebrated djembefolas (djembe players). Having performed and taught internationally, he’s been working towards sharing his experience, knowledge, and love of West African drumming with the rest of the world for decades.

But while Condé’s expertise seems only natural now, he accredits much of his opportunity to study and practise the djembe to his parents, as well as to his native community of Moroya, Guinea.

“I’ve always loved this kind of drumming since I was a little boy. My mom would help and encourage me, because she wanted me to be a fola. She would show me other drummers and try to teach me to grow up like that, so I’ve always loved djembe,” says Condé. “My village’s people told my family, “we want Bolokada to play djembe for us because he has a very special energy. We want Bolokada to be a djembefola.”

Despite the encouragement, Condé notes how his father was initially concerned: although he was interested in his success, the prospect of Condé becoming a professional djembefola would mean time away from working at home.

But Condé says that his community was committed to his growth as a djembefola. Many of the people in his village stepped forward to volunteer to work for his father in his stead, so that he could focus on mastering his craft.

“My dad let me play for them, and many of my village’s people, women and men, worked with my dad for five years, because I played djembe for them,” says Condé.

Sound and energy

From then on, Condé’s career as a professional djembefola began to take shape. While touring other smaller villages in Guinea, the mayor of Kissidougou – a larger city in Guinea – came across Condé and was taken aback by his talent. He enlisted him to come and perform on a larger scale in the big city.

Since his big break, Condé has gone on to perform at an international level for the national ballet company of Guinea – Les Percussions de Guinée – as well as teaching West African drumming at multiple universities across the United States, including teaching other djembe teachers across the country. For Condé, one of the most rewarding experiences of his career has been to share his love for djembe with others.

“So I grew up, and I know now how teaching is very important, and now I see the importance of making everybody happy,” says Condé. “You make the community strong, you bring people together. It makes people smile, and brings good energy to people.”

Condé says that a good teacher can introduce a number of key concepts in a beginner’s djembe course – such as solo and accompaniment rhythms and phrases, and creating different tones and sounds with the drum – but notes that true mastery of the djembe can take decades. Despite appearing simple on the surface, one can spend an entire lifetime studying and performing djembe.

But the master drummer says that getting started is much simpler. For Condé, all it takes is a love for djembe, and a passion that is sure to grow as one discovers the sound and energy of the drum.

“The first important part of playing and learning djembe is that you have to love it. If you love it, that love is gonna push you along, and push you to find a teacher to teach you,” says Condé. “That love is gonna push you to a workshop to learn the rhythm and to play it together with your friends. That same love is going to push you to make smiling easy.”

 

For more information on Condé and the event, visit www.drumming.ca

Leave a Reply