Sycamore Academy in St. Annes, Nottingham contacted us to provide African Drumming workshops to coincide with their topic on Black History Month.
They had seen us performing with the phenomenal djembe player Sidiki Dembele a couple of weeks earlier at the University of Nottingham open day. The children were so thoroughly engaged by the performance, that the school asked us to extend the same experience to the rest of their school. We wanted to provide something special for this school so it seemed like a 'no-brainer' that Sidiki should be there as well. Here are some highlights from the day:
It was a fantastic experience working with Sidiki. The children were truly inspired with Sidiki's incredible musicianship and more importantly they received a real understanding of West African music and its roots. It was wonderful to see the children jumping into the drum circle space to dance to Sidiki's rhythms. Sidiki could follow the children's every move, creating in the moment drum phrases to practically anything they did.
Sidiki Dembele comes from a family of Griots. Griot families reside throughout much of West Africa in countries such as Gambia, Senegal, Guinea, Mali and the Ivory Coast. Griots are musicians, oral historians and social commentators. To be born into a Griot family means that you inherit not just a centuries old tradition of musicianship but also the responsibility to preserve a historical and cultural tradition along with wisdom and knowledge, wisdom to pass on to future generations.
It is important to understand this background when you see Sidiki performing. When he is playing the djembe, you see a loud and flamboyant showman. However there is a quieter, and more methodical side to the man. Like many members of Griot families, Sidiki is a multi instrumentalist. While he considers the Djembe drum as his first instrument, he is currently studying the Djeli N'Goni and the Kamelen N'Goni. These are the traditional instruments of the Griot families along with the 22 stringed instrument called the Kora. The Djeli N'Goni dates right back to the 12th Century and was traditionally played for the kings and rulers of the Manding empire. It is an incredibly delicate instrument that creates beautiful melodies - such a contrast to the loud ferocious energy of the djembe drum. When Sidiki started playing this instrument for the school's final assembly, the atmosphere of the room changed. All the children's quiet chattering and fidgeting subsided as they listened to Sidiki's quiet melodies in a calm and tranquil state. It was fantastic to see this - they were clearly moved by his performance.
Our enormous thanks goes to Sidiki for providing such a fantastic experience. We are looking forward to working with him again to inspire yet more children in the near future!