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Vera H. Flaig

(b Balandugu, Guinea, West Africa, 1950). Drummer, director, and teacher of Guinean birth. Mamady Keïta began his official apprenticeship with the village djembéfola at the age of eight. By his late teens, he was lead drummer of Ballet D’Joliba. By 22 he became the company’s first drummer to act as artistic director. Upon his retirement from the ballet in 1986, Keïta played briefly for the national ballet in Côte D’Ivoire before settling in Belgium where he founded an international djembé school called Tam Tam Mandingue.

Keïta came to live in the United States in 2004. At his first official workshop as an American resident, Keïta announced: “I spent fifteen years cleaning up the djembé drumming in Europe. Now it is time to do the same in America.” Despite the growing popularity of the djembé, Keïta was surprised by the lack of understanding about its history and music within American drum circles. Keïta, together with six other ...