Sayon Camara & Landaya
“Traditional instruments like African flute, djembe and dunun drums, kamalen'goni, and more combine in these skillfully crafted renditions of traditional Mandinka rhythms and songs from West Africa. A percussive, melodic, and upbeat journey into African music.”
Sayon was born in the village of Kouya Sidia in Kouroussa in central Guinea. His parents gave him a very loving upbringing, instilling him with honesty, compassion and wisdom as he grew up with his siblings in the wonderful commune of Guinean society. At the age of seven his father, an accomplished djembe player, gifted him a with djembe. This altered the course of his life and his hands have not left the djembe since.
After drumming in the village for 31 years while cultivating rice and working for a brief period in the bauxite mines, Sayon left his village as a master djembefola, to work in Conakry with the world’s foremost djembe player, Famoudou Konate. When Famoudou heard him play he was amazed by the clarity of the sound Sayon produced on the djembe. For the next eight years, Sayon worked intensively with Famoudou Konate, teaching at his workshops, and playing at his concerts and on his CDs. Eventually Sayon began leading other workshops for people from all over the world, both in Guinea and Japan, and has become a sought after musician to play for various occasions such as marriages, naming ceremonies, traditional festivals of all kinds, and even political events, with his ensemble of drummers and dancers.
Dave Kobrenski is an accomplished musician, artist, and educator who travels yearly to Guinea, West Africa, to study with master musicians such as Famoudou Konaté, Nansady Keita, and other drummers of the region. He has studied the African flute extensively with a master of the Malinké flute tradition, Lanciné Condé.
His passion for music and culture have led him to realizing that part of his life’s work is in preserving the musical and cultural traditions of indigenous peoples. He has been teaching West African drumming to students of all ages since 1998, performs regularly with Landaya as well as Donkilo! Afro Funk Orkestra, and has been featured on NHPR’s The Front Porch talk show.
Doug spent much of his life banging on tables until blues-singer friend Claire put a cookie tin and brushes in front of him and commanded, “Play!” After graduating to drum kit, Doug discovered the addictive African rhythms through lessons with Barbara Levy, and later with Dave K. Having joined the group in 2001, Doug is an original Ensemble member, specializing in dununs. His solid playing, command over the complex rhythmic patterns of the dunun (bass) drums, and energetic performing style have established him as an integral and foundational part of the group.
Grant is a life-long musician who made a few bucks as a kid playing accordion in show bands at Summer resorts in the Catskill Mountains. Then followed a detour through a bit of guitar, piano, then college, family and lots of work.
His musical home-coming came on that life-changing day when he went, almost by chance, to one of Dave Kobrenski’s West African drumming workshops. It was the start of a life-long devotion to learning, playing, and teaching this most amazing music.
Says Grant, “The satisfaction and joy of learning and sharing this music with this amazing group of players are truly beyond describing, and are some of the things in this life that I’m most grateful for. That same gratitude extends to my dear and incredible wife Julie. We are so blessed to be able to share in our wonderful journey together.”
While studying classical flute at college, Nicole attended a weekend African drumming workshop. Ever since then, she has been taking in as many lessons as time will allow. Some of her teachers have been, Steve Ferris, Hafiz Shabazz, Barbara Levy, Randy Armstrong, David Kobrenski and Sekou Sylla. Lately, she has been humbled by learning the tambin (African flute).
An energetic and talented performer, Nicole's on-stage enthusiasm and versatility as a musician makes her a wonderful addition to Landaya.
John has been studying traditional West African music for many years. Having studied with the likes of Famoudou Konate, Mamady Keita, Sayon Camara, and many others, his experience and talent on both the djembe and dunun drums makes him a versatile addition to the group. Since joining the group in 2010, John's experience and versatility have allowed the group to expand in new directions; his enthusiasm for the music and culture is apparent in his positive approach to each performance.
Dancer and teacher Kerri Biller brings her enthusiastic and supportive approach to teaching together with a passion for and understanding of the dance traditions of West Africa. Kerri has studied traditional West African dance in Ghana, West Africa with Nii Tetteh Tettey and members of the Kusun Ensemble, as well as in Guinea, West Africa. She has studied Mandinka drum music with Famoudou Konaté in Guinea.
Kerri was a founding member of the Black Bear Moon Rhythm Ensemble, and her amazing rhythmic sensibility and formidable playing on the sangban has captivated audiences. In the workshops, Kerri’s caring, joyous, and energetic approach makes her a favorite!