Keita's "Sila Laka" workshop tour brings the West African drum master to Durham Sept. 15-16. Local percussionist and educator Beverly Botsford, a student of Keita's who is cosponsoring the visit, says Keita is "reaching out more to the United States of America" in recent years, lending his authentic knowledge of djembe rhythms in their original, undiluted form.
"Mamady has been such a great inspiration over a lot of years," says Botsford. "He's devoted to this mission to share djembe in its beautiful traditional form, to share some of the rhythms as they were originally developed in village situations, and he's devoted to sharing it with all walks of life."
Keita inherited the oral tradition of drum lore as it was passed on to him in his native Balandugu, but what makes him an international conduit for that knowledge is his ability to communicate West African musical idioms so that they make sense to people who may be used to listening for the downbeat.
"His teaching is impeccable. He's blown my mind for years, and he continues to get more effective. He's developed methods that work for people with a more Western sensibility, if you will. It's difficult to find people who are from those traditional cultures to translate it to our ears."
Besides authenticity and the effectiveness of Keita's teaching style, there's aesthetics, Botsford adds.
"The bottom line is the parts work together in ways that are profoundly beautiful to me. The parts are not full of fluff or flash; they are pure substance."
Beginning, intermediate and advanced djembe workshops take place Sept. 15-16 at the Duke School for Children at 1516 Hull Ave. A class on the deeper-voiced dunun drums will be taught on Sept. 16 at the Eno River Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at 4907 Garrett Road. For all djembe workshops, only West African djembe and ashiko drums will be allowed (no congas please), but rental drums will be available for $5. Instruction costs $25 per djembe class and $35 for the dunun workshop. A full class schedule and registration are available at the Web site www.mamadydurham2004.com. For more information, contact Nancy Brown at 491-8003 or 491-8002 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.