Featuring The Griot Tradition, Gerard Chenet and Sobobade, Dancing and Drumming Classes, Trips to the Village of Toubab Diallaw, plus journals.

Word of the day: Griot or jeli - historian, keeper of the legends, mediator, and advisor. A griot usually plays the kora and/or balafon and sings the stories and praise songs of his people. This is almost always a hereditary position. Baaba Maal is an unusual exception to this rule. His friend Mansour Seck, who is from a griot family, recognised Baaba's special gifts and took him traveling all over the African west coast to learn the music and stories of many peoples.


This is PAPE SAKHO, a griot we met here at Sobobade. He has become a good friend to all of us, taking us on tours of the village, and sitting for tea and chatting. He's from the Mandinka people. He said it took him five years to learn to play the kora until he became a master. He plays concerts, keeps the family history, and teaches others to play the kora. People come from Holland, Belgium, and the US to study with him.

Pape made his own kora from a large calabash (gourd), cowskin, using two gauges of fishing line for the strings. The strings are tied on with leather and can be tuned by moving the rings up and down the wooden neck. He even has fitted it out with an electrical amplifying system. Then he carved the silhouette of Africa for decoration on the side that faces the audience. The kora is played by using only the thumbs and forefingers on both hands. He usually sings while he's playing. (Pape was so happy to see this story here on the web. He checked to make sure it's all correct, too.)

Intro to Espace Sobobade and Its Creator
Gerard Chenet

This is Gerard Chenet. He's the artist from Haiti who designed and built this beautiful conference center, Espace Sobobade. He says there's two ways of learning art: academic learning and intuition, and that he's used intuition to design all we see here. In this case he treated each building like it was a sculpture. We notice new artistic details every day.

Click here to read all about Gerard and Sylvaine, the very special proprietors of Sobobade.

Click here to see a photo album of Sobobade.

Click here to see Sobobade's own website.

Sobobade arch at sunset

Dancing and Drumming Classes

On Thursday and Friday we had a dance class, a djembe class, a sabar drumming class, then a sabar rhythm dance class. Are we living right or what?! Ousman was our djembe teacher, Nongo Diop, our sabar drum teacher, and Aissata Lisse, our dance teacher. We found out that the sabar drums each has its own name. The dial is the grandfather or bass drum. The ner is the drum that the master drummer uses for his solos. The bun bun drum keeps the rhythm.

Moise Niassy is the beautiful dancer with Kim. He also taught us a very moving song called Nostalgie about peace and love and 2 sisters missing each other. He plays the flute, guitar, and djun djun, too. Moise would love to come to America to teach us at home. I hope he can because we just loved singing and dancing with him.


dance class

Moses and Kim dance


Moise said that when he dances, he is talking to his God. "Something is passing through me. The dance transforms all bad things in the world like slavery and wars. It also transforms personal maladies like sickness of the body and mind."

Moise singing

Moise teaching Irma and Debby the song, Nostalgie

djembe class

Nongo Diop, sabar teacher
Moise dancing with Kim
Earl is loving the djembe class!

Nongo again


sabar-Tony and Massamba

sabar class

Nongo teaching special break
Massamba teaches Tony how to play the sabar drum
Sabar class

Kim's Journal - enjoying the beautiful place, drumming, and dancing

Trips to the Village of Toubab Diallaw


Village friend

Village boats

Saturday morning. Tony, Burchie, Siomara, and Elizabeth walked down to have a look around Toubab Diallaw. They saw the village women washing their clothes in large plastic tubs down at the beach and then lay them out to dry on the boats or on the sand. Then they carried their precious water back up the hill to the village. They saw kids playing everywhere. Tony and Burchie met an older woman selling vegetables in the very same place that they met her back in 2001...and they recognised each other! (photo at left) Burchie brought out her camera and was soon surrounded by many children who wanted to pose and have their pictures taken together. She said you should have seen their delighted faces when she showed them these photos! Bob had gone to the village with Pape earlier this same day and took some great pictures of the village taylor, restaurant, fishing boats, and telephone center.

Click here to read Burchie's story about the village.

Click here to see a photo gallery of Burchie, Tony, Siomara, and Elizabeth's visit to the village

Click here to see a photo gallery of Bob, Rich, Lenny, Pape, and Moise's visit to the village.

Inernet Cafe
Zan's journal - technical frustrations and drumming and dancing elations

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Web site written by Debby Kern, Rhythmsong Creations