BillyRadd Music

Monday, August 8, 2011

In the Shadow of the Master

Bolokada Conde, Djembe Master

Last weekend drum aficionados from the Asheville area were treated to a great concert at Jubilee sponsored by Skinny Beats Drum Shop and Gallery. The performance featured notable West African djembe player Bolokada Conde, Chikomo Marimba, and Billy Zanski with his Skinny Beats Drum Crew (also featuring Billy's multi-talented musical partner, Linda Go). Attending with my wife, Anita, I was privileged to videotape the Friday night performance (a still image from the show is above) and experience first hand the power and beauty of this percussive feast. Besides the quintessential drum of the Malinke people of the Sankaran region of Guinea, West Africa, the djembe, the show also featured doundouns, krin, balafon, various small to large marimbas, and assorted other percussion instruments.

But, for this sound fest, no amplification was needed.

The most striking aspect to me personally of the experience of recording the concert was the vibrations produced by many large drums flowing right through my body with an almost electric intensity. Since I was wearing headphones which limited the intensity of the sound of the music to my ears, I was better able to sense the vibration effect as a tactile sensation rather that an aural one, especially in the center of my chest. I must say, it felt pretty good.

The rest of the audience of probably 100 or so fans could hardly hold their seats. At the end of the second song, Billy Zanski asked the crowd to go ahead and dance, or he'd have to come out to the audience and make them. That was all the invitation they needed to hear and they poured out of their chairs to wriggle, jump, and bop to the wildly energetic but tightly synchronized world beats.

And, of course, Bolokada put on a great exhibition of his rhythmic talents. As a world-renouned djembe player, he's got the "chops" AND his authentic Guinea, West African tribal costume to prove it. Bolokada Conde is known worldwide as one of the most exciting and dynamic djembefolas (a master of the djembe drum). While on tour with Les Percussions de Guinea, Bolokada and Billy Zanski became friends. The following year Billy traveled to Guinea to study with Bolokada, and has worked closely with Bolokada ever since.  Billy tries to bring Bolokada to Asheville once a year, and I hope he continues this tradition for many more years.

As an added bonus, Skinny Beats Drum Shop and Gallery also hosted djembe lessons with Bolokada last weekend.  Anita and I both attended a class last Sunday and were able to spend an hour with the drum master and a class of about 20 djembe students.  It was an enjoyable but too short hour that left all in attendance smiling broadly.

Some of Bolokada's CDs and DVDs can be found by clicking the link.  Check them out.  He's the real thing.

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