Moussa Bolokada Conde
Mande Master Drummer
According to family legend, his mother knew when he was only two years old that he would be a drummer—she could tell from the way he pounded her shoulders when she carried him slung on her back. It is a measure of the esteem in which Bolokada is held in Guinea that the mayor of his home city, Kissidougou, gave him land in 1994, in recognition of his artistry. Bolokada’s neighbors went further: they volunteered to work the land and cook his food for him, so that he could concentrate on drumming for them.
In 1996 Bolokada became lead soloist of Les Percussions de Guinée, Guinea’s premiere percussion ensemble. With the ensemble, he toured in the United States and Europe, gaining an international reputation as a djembe player. He has received numerous awards and accolades for his music: in addition to the mayor of Kissidougou’s gesture, the mayor of San Francisco declared February 25, 2003, Les Percussions de Guinée Day in Bolokada’s honor; and in 2006, he was officially recognized by Guinea’s Minister of Culture. He has performed with Elvin Jones, Joan Baez, and Mickey Hart. Since 2004 he has taught in the United States, forming and maintaining Mande drum-and-dance groups in North Carolina, San Francisco, and Santa Cruz; he has taught workshops in many parts of the United States and Mexico; he has led study-tours to Guinea for students from the United States and Italy in winter and summer vacations; and from August 2008 to December 2011 he was a full-time visiting artist at the Robert E. Brown Center for World Music, where he gave drumming classes at the University, for the community, and in the public schools (as part of the Center's "World Music and Dance in the Schools" program). He has published two CDs (Sankaran and Morowaya), an instructional DVD (M’bara), and a DVD of in-context performances in Guinea (M’bemba Fakoli; all of these are published on the Abaraka label). He is featured in the IMAX movie Pulse: a STOMP Odyssey and is the subject of an upcoming documentary, Bolokada Conde, Malinke Village Djembefola.